[PHNUTR-L] Eliminating colours,
additives could help hyperactive kids, says FSA
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Thu Sep 6 17:02:26 PDT 2007
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Eliminating colours, additives could help hyperactive kids, says FSA
By Jess Halliday
06/09/2007 - The FSA has issued new advice on certain artificial
additives following research into a link with children's behaviour: that
eliminating them from the diet could have some benefits for hyperactive
kids or those with ADHD.
However the change has come about after the agency's independent
Committee on Toxicology (COT) evaluated the results of research it had
commissioned from the University of Southampton.
The findings, while not being taken as hard evidence of a definite
connection or as posing a safety threat, add to the growing stack of
research on the effects of additives. They could be considered as part
of regulatory reassessment processes.
The study, which was published in The Lancet yesterday, was conducted in
two phases. In stage one, 153 three-year olds and 144 eight- and
nine-year olds were given one of two drink mixes containing artificial
food colours and additives, or a placebo. The children were drawn from
general population and across a range of hyperactivity and ADHD
(attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) severities.
Mix A contained sunset yellow (E110), tartrazine (E102), carmoisine
(E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and sodium benzoate (E110). This same mix was
used in an earlier study on a cohort of three-year-olds which was deemed
inconclusive because the effects were not confirmed by clinicians.
Mix B contained sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104),
carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129) and sodium benzoate (E110).
Phase one lasted six weeks, and every child consuming the mixes and the
placebo for one week each, with a one week wash-out period between each.
Parents were asked to keep other sources of artificial colours out of
the diet, and to keep a diary of violations.
Phase two involved some of the children from the older group -
responders and non-responders - during two half-day session a week
apart, at which they were given either a placebo or an active drink
similar to mix A or B, but the whole day's dose was given at once.
The conclusions drawn by the researchers were that artificial food
colours and additives were seen to exacerbate hyperactive behaviour in
children at least up to middle childhood.
Dr Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the FSA, said that while eliminating
artificial colourings from the diet of children showing signs of
hyperactivity or ADHD could be beneficial, this was just one aspect that
could be at play. Other aspects include genetics, premature birth,
environment and upbringing.
Study author Jim Stevenson said: "Parents should not think that simply
taking these additives out of food will prevent hyperactive disorders.
We know that many other influences are at work, but this at least is one
a child can avoid."
This view was echoed by Professor Ieuan Hughes, chair of the COT, who
said: "Whilst this research does not prove that the colours used in the
study actually cause increased hyperactivity in children, it provides
supporting evidence for a link.
"It is important to stress that the currently available evidence does
not identify whether this association would be restricted to certain
food additives or combinations of them."
Professor Hughes also noted that there are always constraints to
research conducted with children.
As for where the FSA will go from here, it has shared the findings of
the study with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which is
currently assessing the science on safety of all food additives
permitted in the EU.
Some additives have been allowed for as long as 30 years, without
regulatory consideration of science conducted since the original
approvals were granted.
Industry response to the study and the COT's opinion on it has been
measured, with several groups saying they will be taking a close and
careful look at the study results. Some initial meeting have already
taken place between industry representatives and the FSA.
"Companies will clearly take account of these findings as part of their
ongoing review of product formulations," said Julian Hunt, director of
communications at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).
Given consumer demand for few additives in food and beverage products,
many manufacturers are already reducing use of E-numbers, or tweaking
their formulas to avoid artificial colours - although there are
technical challenges associated with this.
In particular, sodium benzoate plays a crucial preservative role in
Hunt stressed that the way in which the additives were tested as a
mixture is not how they are used in everyday products. However the
particular colours and sodium benzoate were chosen because they were
seen to figure most commonly in products aimed at children.
"It is important to reassure consumers that the Southampton study does
not suggest there is a safety issue with the use of these additives," he
The Food Additives and Ingredients Association (FAIA) said it welcomed
the COT's statement on the research. "It adds new information to the
debate on this controversial topic and we will study its findings in
detail," it said.
The FAIA also pointed out that such was the study design that it is not
possible to assess the effect of any of the individual artificial
colours on child behaviour.
Journal: The Lancet
Title: "Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and
8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded,
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD < fivestar at nutritionucanlivewith.com >
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