Category Archives: ADHD

Most children in the U.S. are exposed to artificial food dye — many at levels that can trigger behavioral difficulties

dyesArtificial food dyes have been a very controversial topic for years now. These chemical colorings carry many problems with them straight into our food supply. Unfortunately, one of the most concerning problems surrounding artificial colors is that they’ve almost certainly been linked with hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children. Unfortunately, according to new information coming from the FDA, this important message hasn’t reached everyone just yet.

Nearly every child in America is exposed to Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 1, according to a new estimate of Americans’ exposure to the controversial chemicals released by the Food and Drug Administration. For children who consume a lot of dyed foods, the estimate of the amount of Red 40 alone exceeds the amount of total dyes sufficient to trigger hyperactivity and other adverse effects on behavior in some studies.

The results were first released at a poster session held at a conference sponsored by the American Chemical Society on August 13. FDA has not yet published the full results and says the assessment is ongoing.

This meal of Hamburger Helper (2 cups), salad with Kraft Creamy French dressing (4 T.), and Powerade Orange (8 oz.) contains 47.5 mg of artificial food dyes. Behavioral tests found as little as 30 mg can trigger hyperactivity or ADHD symptoms in sensitive kids.

“Such widespread exposure to artificially colored foods is bad news for all children, since artificially colored foods aren’t healthy foods in the first place,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest senior scientist Lisa Y. Lefferts. “The FDA is failing kids and parents by allowing the use of these purely cosmetic chemicals in food, which trigger behavioral problems in some children, as even FDA conceded in 2011.”

The FDA tested more than 580 foods whose labels indicated they contained artificial colors, and matched the test results with government data on food consumption for those products, to produce exposure estimates for the general population, young children, and teenage boys. The estimates only include foods that contain dyes, and only include data for people who consumed those foods over a two-day period. The agency has not yet publicly disclosed the brand names of the tested foods.

FoodFacts.com is difficult for parents to be vigilant about eliminating food dyes from their families’ diets. Often it can be a daunting proposition. And often, if your child isn’t affected by smaller levels of artificial colors, it’s easy enough to think this might not be a problem for your family. But it’s important to remember that the studies that have been conducted point to the idea that it isn’t just kids with ADHD who are affected by artificial colors. These chemicals can trigger hyperactivity and behavioral problems in ANY child. If that’s not enough to keep foods with artificial colors out of your home, you can throw in the additional problems associated with colorful processed foods. Things like migraines and facial swelling in adults, the possibility of carcinogenic contaminants, and DNA in mice included in certain animal studies and you can easily see the importance of keeping artificial food dyes out of your diet.

http://cspinet.org/new/201409041.html

Healthy eating habits are especially important during pregnancy

FoodFacts.com devotes many blog posts to the importance of healthy eating habits. While there are many contributors to the worldwide obesity crisis, we do know with certainty that the prevalence of processed foods and beverages in our diets stands out as one of the significant causes of the current, continually growing problem of obesity. Particularly disturbing among children, rates of obesity keep climbing as healthy dietary habits continue to devolve around the globe. So we continually reiterate the importance of avoiding processed foods and beverages and emphasize the significant health benefits of fresh, whole foods prepared at home.

Today we read about a new study that underscores the importance of healthy eating habits during pregnancy, and the effects of the diets of expectant mothers on the next generation. Researchers have found that mothers who eat junk food while pregnant are more likely to have children with mental health problems.

Researchers from Deakin University in Australia, alongside researchers from Norway, analyzed more than 23,000 mothers who were a part of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, gathered information regarding the mothers’ diets throughout pregnancy and their children’s diets at both 18 months and 3 years of age.

The mothers were also asked to complete questionnaires when their children were 18 months, 3-years and 5-years-old to establish symptoms of depression, anxiety, conduct disorder and ADHD. The researchers then analyzed the relationship between the mothers’ and children’s diets, and the mental health symptoms and behaviors in the children aged 18 months to five-years-old.

Results of the study reveal that mothers who eat more unhealthy foods during pregnancy, such as sweet drinks, refined cereals and salty foods, have children with increased behavioral problems, such as aggression and tantrums.

Additionally, the findings show that children who eat more unhealthy foods in their first years of life, or who lack nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, also show increased aggression and behavioral problems, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Associate professor Felice Jacka, researcher at the IMPACT Strategic Research Center at Deakin University, says: “It is becoming even more clear that diet matters to mental health right across the age spectrum.”

“These new findings suggest that unhealthy and ‘junk’ foods may have an impact on the risk for mental health problems in children, and they add to the growing body of evidence on the impact of unhealthy diets on the risk for depression, anxiety and even dementia. The changes to our food systems, including the shift to more high-energy, low nutrition foods developed and marketed by the processed food industry, have led to a massive increase in obesity-related illnesses right across the globe,” she says.

While there is no need for mothers to go on special diets during pregnancy, it is important to eat a variety of different foods every day to make sure that both mother and child are getting the right balance of nutrients.

Other studies have also suggested potential health risks of eating junk food while pregnant. Animal research from the Royal Veterinary College in London in 2006 suggested a link between unhealthy food during pregnancy and the risk of obesity in offspring.

FoodFacts.com thinks it’s important to note that just as there has been an upswing in childhood obesity rates, there has also been an upswing in childhood depression and behavioral difficulties. While there’s been no definitive link between diet and childhood mental health, it is interesting that both obesity and depression/behavior challenges have risen at the same time that the proliferation of processed foods and beverages in our food supply is higher than it’s ever been. Certainly food for thought. While we want everyone to make the healthiest dietary choices, we want to make sure that expectant mothers everywhere take especially good care of themselves, for both their own well-being and the well-being of their precious children.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265039.php

Learning difficulties and ADHD may be linked with childhood obesity

FoodFacts.com tries to stay aware of the latest news regarding the growing obesity epidemic and how it affects the health and well being of the population. Today we found an interesting study out of the University of Illinois that highlights a possible link between diets high in fat and conditions that affect children in our country like ADHD and learning disabilities connected to memory.

Both childhood obesity and childhood conditions like ADHD and learning disabilities have been on an upsurge. The researchers involved in this study explored the effects of a high-fat diet (with 60% of its calories derived from fat) versus a low-fat diet with only 10% of calories coming from fat on the behavior of two different groups of one month old mice. Before the mice on the high-fat diet were able to gain any weight from their food consumption, the behavior of the group began to change.

The mice on the high-fat diet experienced an increase in anxiety, evidenced by increased burrowing and wheel running as well as a hesitance to explore available open spaces. Those same mice also developed learning and memory problems. They experienced difficulty negotiating a maize as well as difficulty recognizing objects. When some of these mice were switched over to a low-fat diet, their memory was back to normal in one week’s time.

Some of the mice were kept on the high-fat diet and the memory problems continued for a three week period. At about 10 weeks, their bodies seemed to compensate for the diet – but by that point the mice became obese and developed diabetes. These results suggested to researchers that a high-fat diet could possibly trigger anxiety and memory problems in children.

While the researchers expected that the high-fat diet would encourage inflammation which is associated with obesity, they didn’t see an inflammatory response in the brains of the mice consuming the higher-fat food. What they did find, however, was the initiation of a chemical response that was similar to the responses seen in addiction … the increase of dopamine, which is associated with pleasurable feelings in an addict. The increase in dopamine is felt to have triggered the anxious behaviors and learning difficulties in the high-fat diet group. It was noted that the increase of dopamine in the brain is common to both the ADHD condition as well as obesity.

FoodFacts.com found the information in this study to be very valuable. While we understand that further research must be conducted to clarify these results, and we understand that not every child with ADHD or a learning disability is obese, the study certainly calls into question how diets high in fat affect our children. Let’s continue to be mindful of building healthy nutrition habits for our families and to develop a deeper understanding of how the foods we (and our children) eat affect our health and well being.

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219121021.htm

ADHD, learning difficulties and the benefits of DHA

Some incredibly encouraging research coming out of Australia regarding the benefits of DHA for kids with ADHD and other learning difficulties seems to corroborate other study findings that were available last month. FoodFacts.com wanted to share this information with our community, as we are aware of how many families are looking for answers for their children.

Often ADHD exists with kids who often have other learning difficulties. The conditions can be co-morbid (often found together) in a child. And a new nutritional study suggests that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids that contain DHA can help make improvements for these children.

90 Australian children ranging in age from 7 to 12 participated in the study. All the kids involved had ADHD symptoms that rated higher than the 90th percentile on the scale used to determine the condition called the Conners Rating Scale. The children were given the supplements for a four month period.

At the end of that period it was found that there was a link between the increased levels of DHA and improved reading and behavior. Most telling, though, was that the children who had ADHD and learning difficulties showed a significant improvement in reading, spelling, the ability to divide attention, hyperactivity and restlessness.

They concluded that in fact that increasing levels of DHA may improve both schoolwork and behavior in ADHD kids and that children who present with both ADHD and learning difficulties may enjoy the biggest advantages.

This study from Australia comes on the heels of a study from Great Britain that also associated that daily supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids is linked to improve reading and behavior in kids with learning difficulties.

That study, out of the University of Oxford involved kids between the ages and seven and nine who were underperforming on standardized tests. These kids were also given omega-3 with DHA supplements. The study determined that the kids taking these supplements improved their reading. In fact, there were 224 kids reading at or below the 20th percentile level. Over the 16 week trial period, the improvement in their reading was 20% greater than would normally be expected. And for the 105 kids in that initial group whose reading was below the 10th percentile, their improvement was 50% better than previously expected.

Both of these studies present parents with a simple and natural option when looking for help for their kids with ADHD and learning difficulties. Fish oil supplements are widely available throughout our country. They present no danger for our children and the benefits could truly make this a worthwhile undertaking for families looking for ways to help their children improve their behavior and their academic performance.

FoodFacts.com invites you to read more:
http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Nutrition/Supplements/dha_improves_adhd_1008120643.html
http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/09/10/omega-3-may-help-underperforming-kids/44381.html

New research linking preservative with ADHD

FoodFacts.com wants to call our community’s attention to a new study from the Journal of Attention Disorders. So many times we read about a possible exacerbation of attention difficulties from various food preservatives and additives and this new study has found something that might appear to be more than a possible exacerbation.

Sodium benzoate is a preservative found in many different food products and beverages. It has long been recognized as generally safe in small amounts. And it has been recnogized to have harmful effects in certain circumstances. Its use is to prevent spoilage. And you’ll see it most often in acidic products like soda, jelly or jam or sauerkraut. Possible problems have been allergic reactions and the suggestion that it is a trigger for hyperactivity in children who have been diagnosed with ADHD. In addition, it is known to actually form benzene when combined with ascorbic acid. While the amount of benzene formed appears to be low, it does appear that the amounts of benzene formed in some beverages would be an actual health concern, since benzene has been linked to elevated risks for leukemia and other blood cancer. So, generally, sodium benzoate is a preservative that is – and has been – of concern.

This new study focused on college students who habitually consumed high levels of beverages containing sodium benzoate, and those who did not. 475 students took part in the study in 2010. They were each asked about their consumption of beverages containing sodium benzoate. They were all assessed for symptoms of ADHD.

The study clearly found that consumption of beverages containing sodium benzoate had a significant association with symptoms for ADHD.

There were 67 students who displayed symptoms of ADHD who reported consuming more than 35 servings per month of beverages containing sodium benzoate. These students scored a 4 or more on the symptom scale used. On the lower end were students consuming 17 servings per month of beverages containing sodium benzoate, who had the least amount of symptoms.

While further research is certainly needed, this study displays a recorded link between ADHD and sodium benzoate.

FoodFacts.com encourages our community, as always, to read labels carefully. While sodium benzoate is a common ingredient in sodas, it is present in other food products as well. Stay alert for the presence of this preservative on ingredient lists regardless of the food category.

Pesticides linked to ADHD in Kids?

Brought to you by Foodfacts.com:

Exposure to pesticides used on common kid-friendly foods — including frozen blueberries, fresh strawberries and celery — appears to boost the chances that children will be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, new research shows.
blueberries4
Youngsters with high levels of pesticide residue in their urine, particularly from widely used types of insecticide such as malathion, were more likely to have ADHD, the behavior disorder that often disrupts school and social life, scientists in the United States and Canada found.

Kids with higher-than-average levels of one pesticide marker were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as children who showed no traces of the poison.

“I think it’s fairly significant. A doubling is a strong effect,” said Maryse F. Bouchard, a researcher at the University of Montreal in Quebec and lead author of the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The take-home message for parents, according to Bouchard: “I would say buy organic as much as possible,” she said. “I would also recommend washing fruits and vegetables as much as possible.”
pears
Diet is a major source of pesticide exposure in children, according to the National Academy of Sciences, and much of that exposure comes from favorite fruits and vegetables. In 2008, detectable concentrations of malathion were found in 28 percent of frozen blueberry samples, 25 percent of fresh strawberry samples and 19 percent of celery samples, a government report found.

ADHD affects 4.5 million U.S. kids
Bouchard’s study is the largest to date to look at the effect of pesticides on child development and behavior, including ADHD, which affects an estimated 4.5 million U.S. children. About 2.5 million kids take medication for the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bouchard and her colleagues measured levels of six pesticide metabolites in the urine of 1,139 children ages 8 to 15 selected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2000 and 2004. The study included 119 children who were diagnosed with ADHD.

Unlike other studies of pesticides’ impact, Bouchard’s sample provided a glimpse into average insecticide exposure in the general population of children, not a specialized group, such as children of farm-workers. Because certain pesticides leave the body after three to six days, the presence of residue shows that exposure is likely constant, Bouchard said.

She found that kids with a 10-fold increase in the kind of metabolites left in the body after malathion exposure were 55 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Because the researchers didn’t review the kids’ diets, they couldn’t say why some children had such high levels of pesticide residue. Children are at greater risk from pesticides because their young bodies are still developing and may not metabolize chemicals as well as adults’.
apples
The most alarming finding was a near-doubling in odds of ADHD diagnoses among kids with higher-than-average levels of the most common of the six metabolites detected. Kids with high levels of dimethyl thiophosphate were 93 percent more likely to have the disorder than children with with undetectable levels of the marker.

The research may add to anxiety about ADHD, which has no known cause, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.

“It does seem to suggest that at non-extreme or more typical levels, there does seem to be some increased risk,” said Adesman, who is on the professional advisory board for Children and Adults with ADHD, an advocacy group.

Pesticides prey on nervous system
Boucher studied organophosphate pesticides, which account for as much as 70 percent of the pesticide use in the U.S. They work by interfering with the nervous systems of insects, but have a similar effect in mammals, including humans. Most people in the U.S. have residues of the products in their urine.

Cheminova, the Danish firm that is the leading manufacturer of malathion in the world, declined to comment on the conclusions of the new research. Diane Allemang, vice president for global regulatory affairs, said she hadn’t seen the study.
Parents of children with ADHD, however, said Bouchard’s work will give them one more thing to worry about.
raspberries
“We’re all completely obsessed with food,” said Jamie Norman, 32, of Freeburg, Ill., whose 6-year-old son, Aidan, was diagnosed with ADHD six months ago.

The stimulant medication Aidan takes, Adderall XR, depresses his appetite, so Norman said she’s always trying to find good foods that he’ll want to eat. Other parents of kids with ADHD choose to use diet, not medication, to control the disorder and they’re constantly monitoring food, too.

News that some of the best foods for kids might be tainted with something linked to ADHD is worrisome, Norman said.
“I’ve known for some time that strawberries, in particular, contain high levels of pesticide, but as far as frozen fruit, I don’t give that a second thought,” she said.

Buy organic, make sure to wash

The best advice for parents — and anyone who wants to avoid pesticides — is to choose foods least likely to contain them. The Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocacy organization, advises shoppers to buy organic versions of a dozen fruits and vegetables that grow in the ground or are commonly eaten with the skin, because they’re most likely to be contaminated.

Make sure to wash all fruits and vegetables under cold running tap water and scrub firm-skinned produce with a brush. Be sure to rinse frozen fruits and vegetables, too.

But don’t wash produce with soap. The Food and Drug Administration says that could leave behind residues of detergent, yet more chemicals that everyone would do best to avoid.

(MSNBC)