Artificial food additives have a significant impact on
children’s behaviour, according to a new study.
In a four-week trial, 300 children were kept on a diet free from
artificial colours and preservatives. For the second and fourth
week they were given daily fruit juice, some of which had
colourings and preservatives added and some didn’t. The
parents did not know which type of juice their child had been
The children’s behaviour was assessed before the study
began and regularly throughout the study by formal clinical
assessment and by parents’ diaries. Parents reported that
their children became significantly less hyperactive when the
artificial colours and preservatives were withdrawn, and much more
hyperactive when they were put back in.
The journal Archives of Disease in Childhood reports that for
children with high hyperactivity scores the prevalence was reduced
from 15 to 6 per cent according to parents’ assessment,
though all the effects were seen irrespective of whether the child
was hyperactive or allergic before the study started.
The formal clinical assessments did not reflect the changes.
However, researchers believe parents’ ratings may be more
sensitive than clinical assessment and suggest that removing
tartrazine, sunset yellow and carmoisine colourings, and the
preservative sodium benzoate from food could be in the long-term
interests of public health.