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Food Additives May Increase Hyperactivity in Children

Adverse effects from food color, additives observed in general population of young children

FRIDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Artificial food color and additives found in food, candy and drinks may increase hyperactivity in children at least up to age 9, according to the results of a randomized study published online Sept. 6 in The Lancet.

Jim Stevenson, Ph.D., of the University of Southampton in the U.K., and colleagues randomly assigned 153 children aged 3 years and 144 children aged 8 to 9 years, to receive either challenge drinks containing sodium benzoate, a placebo drink, and one of two mixes of artificial food colors and additives (the equivalent to the food coloring in two or four 56-gram bags of sweets a day, the estimated amount consumed by children).

The researchers found that the first mix -- which contained sunset yellow, carmoisine, tartrazine and ponceau -- was significantly associated with higher global hyperactivity scores in both groups of children compared to placebo. They also found that the second mix -- which contained sunset yellow, carmoisine, quinoline yellow and allura red -- was significantly associated with higher hyperactivity scores in the older children.

"These findings show that adverse effects are not just seen in children with extreme hyperactivity (i.e., ADHD), but can also be seen in the general population and across the range of severities of hyperactivity," the authors write. "Although the use of artificial coloring in food manufacture might seem superfluous, the same cannot be said for sodium benzoate, which has an important preservative function. The implications of these results for the regulation of food additive use could be substantial."

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