Health Check: Additive Alert

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 This article is featured in the December '07 Feeding Your Family Newsletter
"Beautiful" Roasted Vegetables  | What's in Season? Wheat Berries | Food Fights | Things We Love! The Ruler in the Kitchen |  Health Check: Artificially Colored Foods

Many of us have wondered this for ages: How can a neon-colored drink be good for kids? Are unpronounceable ingredients OK? Are preservatives bad?

Now a British study confirms what many parents and teachers have suspected: certain additives, such as artificial colorings, and preservatives, such as the ubiquitous sodium benzoate, are directly linked to misbehavior.

In the study, researchers at the United Kingdom's Asthma & Allergy Research Centre studied 3-year-olds and 8- and 9-year-olds for one month. For two weeks the children drank a fruit juice that had been dosed with 20 mg of artificial coloring and 45 mg of preservatives. For the next two weeks, the children drank an identical fruit juice, but without the added colorings and preservatives. Other sources of additives were kept from the children's diets.

Parents and teachers kept reports recording the children's behavior, ranging from interrupting to temper tantrums. The researchers found that the children in both age group showed significant, negative behavioral changes after consuming the additive-laden drinks. They were more hyperactive and had shorter attention spans, often within an hour of consumption.

Although the researchers caution that the study was complex and is yet to be fully interpreted, it seems like one more reason to stick with all-natural foods.

- Larissa Phillips