Do additives cause hyperactivity?

In 1975, a book called 'Why your child is hyperactive' was published by an American paediatrician called Dr. Feingold. He claimed that the behaviour of between 30% and 50% of hyperactive children improved dramatically if foods containing artificial colours, preservatives and flavourings, and foods containing naturally occurring salicylates, were removed from their diets. This sparked a controversy that still rages today.

Photo of children eating

School lunch break
Picture courtesy: USDA

Isle of Wight Study

In 2002, a report was produced by the Food Standards Agency that gave the results of an investigation into the effects of additives on the behaviour of a group of 3 year olds living in the Isle of Wight. It was widely reported in the media that it showed a link between hyperactivity and certain additives. However, the answers were not so clear.

Isle of Wight Study: Summary of Results
Results from Parents Results from Psychlogists

Parents were asked to rate their children's behaviour.

Additives had some effect on their children's behaviour.

Researchers put the children through psychological tests in controlled conditions.

Additives had no effect on the children's behaviour.

Who was right? The parents or the psychologists?
A follow-up study was started to try and find the answer.

Want to know more about food additives and hyperactivity? Read about this study

Questions to ask of any test

There is a vast amount of information about food additives and hyperactivity on the internet. Much of it is unregulated and can be biased. Always look at the information closely to see how reliable it is.