How foods with additives affect children’s behavior has been heavy on my mind as I’ve watched Mamas struggle with increasingly belligerent and aggressive kids. This topic is just too important to ignore. Updated Nov. 2016
One of our sons also had a serious behavior issue at the same time we were dealing with food allergies, candida, and leaky gut (from mold exposure), so I was able to witness first hand the strong connection between food and his behavior. It began between ages 4 and 5 as this normally respectful and compliant child became a hitting, crying, resistant hand-full! As a homeschooling mother, I wanted him to have every advantage to grow and learn, but all my best resources and plans were being messed with by things that at first appeared beyond my control.
That foods affect children’s behavior is a huge topic these days. We all have heard Moms joking at a kid’s party about the sugar buzz and how it will take a while for their child to settle down, so we all intuitively know that certain foods cause problems! I think we are becoming more aware, but everyone should know this!
If you are a doubter, you need to see how foods affect children’s behavior with your own eyes!
The British Experiment
It is obvious that the children not only followed instructions and behaved better, but concentrated better, and remembered more when they eat healthier food. Concentration, following instructions, and memory are fundamental building blocks of the learning process and vital for success at school.
The ‘E numbers’ she refers to in the video are codes for substances that can be used as food additives within the European Union and Switzerland. In the US, there are code words that the FDA allows for hidden additives, and you can find the list here at Truth In Labeling. I discuss the topic of MSG-forming compounds (otherwise known as excitotoxins) added to our food supply in Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills.
Setting Children [and Ourselves] Up For Success Or Failure?
Moms and Dads certainly want to give good things to their children. Part of that may mean feeding them “normal food” that won’t make them look different from their friends. But some of our children are being undermined in ways that make it difficult for them to follow instructions, remember yesterday’s lesson, and in general perform well in school.
We feed them processed foods that can make them aggressive and difficult to control. On top of that, their inability to learn and out-of-control behavior earns them negative feedback and in the worst cases, they get labeled or prescribed unnecessary drugs. No parent wants this for their child.
How Foods Can Cause Criminal Behavior
Three of the Top Problematic Things to Eat:
1. Artificial Coloring
Food dyes are one of the most widely used and dangerous additives. While the European Union has recently placed regulations on labeling food dyes to inform consumers of the health risks, the United States has no such requirement.
- Blue #1 (Brilliant Blue) A study suggests that Blue 1 caused kidney tumors in mice. What it’s in: Baked goods, beverages, desert powders, candies, cereal, drugs, and other products.
- Blue #2 (Indigo Carmine) Causes a statistically significant incidence of tumors, particularly brain gliomas, in male rats. What it’s in: Colored beverages, candies, pet food, & other food and drugs. (source)
- Citrus Red #2 It’s toxic to rodents at modest levels and caused tumors of the urinary bladder and possibly other organs. What it’s in: Skins of Florida oranges.
- Green #3 (Fast Green) Caused significant increases in bladder and testes tumors in male rats. What it’s in: Drugs, personal care products, cosmetic products except in eye area, candies, beverages, ice cream, sorbet, ingested drugs, lipsticks, and externally applied cosmetics.
- Red #3 (Erythrosine) Recognized in 1990 by the FDA as a thyroid carcinogen in animals and is banned in cosmetics and externally applied drugs. What it’s in: Sausage casings, oral medication, maraschino cherries, baked goods, and candies.
- Red #40 (Allura Red) This is the most-widely used and consumed dye. It may accelerate the appearance of immune system tumors in mice. It may cause or trigger hyperactivity in children. What it’s in: Beverages, bakery goods, dessert powders, candies, cereals, foods, drugs, and cosmetics.
- Yellow #5 (Tartrazine) Yellow 5 causes sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions and might trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral effects in children. What it’s in: Pet foods, numerous bakery goods, beverages, dessert powders, candies, cereals, gelatin desserts, and many other foods, as well as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
- Yellow #6 (Sunset Yellow) Caused adrenal tumors in animals and occasionally causes severe hypersensitivity reactions. What it’s in: Color bakery goods, cereals, beverages, dessert powders, candies, gelatin deserts, sausage, cosmetics, and drugs.
There is a shocking amount of sugar in processed foods – and some of it is hidden in places you wouldn’t think. You probably know, 12 oz. can of coke has 9 ½ teaspoons of sugar, but the same amount of Tropicana Orange Juice has 9 teaspoons. There’s also lots of sugar in flavored yogurts and chocolate milk – not so surprising. But did you know that there is often sugar in savory foods, such as ketchup, bread, sausages, and barbecue sauce? Your child can consume a considerable amount of sugar even before you let him or her eat candy. Pediatrician Lendon H. Smith, M.D., nationally famous as “The Children’s Doctor,” was very plain in stating that sugar causes ‘profound mood disorders’.
- Potassium sorbate (in margarine, dips, cakes, fruit products)
- Sodium benzoate (in juices, soft drinks, syrups, medications)
- Sulphites (in dried fruit, fruit drinks, sausages, and many others)
- Propionates (in bread, bakery products)
- Nitrates, Nitrites (in processed deli meats like ham, bacon, and sausages)
- BHA, BHT
Our food has changed so drastically in the last few decades it is no wonder that food-related behavior and learning problems in children are increasing. Contrary to what many parents think, additives – more importantly than just sugar – are to blame for behavior problems. Reactions are related to dose, so the more additives children eat, the more likely they are to be affected.
Additives are now used widely in foods such as bread, butter, crackers, yogurt, juice and energy bars as well as in junk food. Parents who say ‘we eat healthy food’ are generally shocked to find that their children can be consuming 20 additives or more per day.
Foods Affect Children’s Behavior
There is no doubt foods affect children’s behavior. Additive-free children are generally calmer, happier and more cooperative.
Irritability, temper outbursts, bi-polar disorder, defiance, restlessness, and difficulty falling asleep. But parents rarely realize that food chemicals can be associated with many other effects including arguing with siblings, making silly noises, speech delay, anxiety, depression or difficulty concentrating.
The majority of food additives that have been invented in the last few decades, have been created for the sole purpose to improve the bottom line of the food industry – not our health.
We need to educate ourselves on food ingredients and demand more rigorous safety standards along with transparency from the companies that make them.
Here is a great place to start to change things in your home: ‘Better Than Kool-Aid’ Recipe
We are a nation full of unexplained illness. My job as an activist/researcher Mom will always be to look out for you and your family. It’s a role I fell into with my son, and it’s all of our roles, to question this system that has become corrupted and not designed to protect the public.
Have you noticed (or do you suspect) foods affect children’s behavior in your house?
What has YOUR experience been?
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Thanks for reading!