Nutrition plays a critical role in the neurochemical functioning of our children’s brains. Pediatric allergist Ben Feingold, creator of an incredible program for children with hyperactivity, found that 50% of the hyperactivity in his patients was due to consumption of foods containing artificial colorings, flavors, and preservatives. When we look at the scary rise in Ritalin prescriptions being handed out to schoolchildren, it should make us all stop in our tracks. Of course, the ADD/ADHD discussion goes deep into the issues of the un-natural compliance and conformity expected of children bursting with energy, who are constantly forced to “sit still and be quite”. But I’ll save that discussion for a “why I homeschool” post.
On the subject of childhood nutrition, a study published in the Lancet found that 79% of hyperactive children improved when dyes and chemicals were removed from their diets, and they became worse again when those substances were added back in. The worst offenders were artificial colors and flavors, and refined sugar was also significant. In fact, the study found that sodium benzoate, the preservative found in many soft drinks, fruit juices, and even bottled salad dressings, causes some children to become significantly more hyperactive.
WORSE THAN LEAD
The Lancet study found something even more disturbing. It found that “E-numbered” dyes like tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129) damage a child’s brain, and cause significant IQ reduction — to the same degree as lead! This is not something to be overlooked. Lead has been linked with a person’s propensity to engage in criminal behavior later in life. As shocking as that sounds, a landmark study done back in 1990 found that lead poisoning in children was the SINGLE most important predictor in a person becoming a criminal as an adult. Yes, single most important factor. Lead poisoning was found to be more significant than poverty and other major environmental factors that are often cited by sociologists in predicting criminality.
Dr. Herbert Needleman, in a similar study, found that even very small amounts of lead can contribute to anti-social behavior and delinquency. So the question becomes, if very small amounts of lead can cause these problems, and the Lancet study showed that the E numbered dyes could cause brain damage equal to that of lead — shouldn’t we be very concerned that the constant bombardment of these chemicals and dyes in our kids’ food could be contributing to very serious societal problems in general?
WHAT TO DO NOW
I think the most important thing you can do right now, is go to your pantry and refrigerator, and toss anything and everything that contains dyes and preservatives like sodium benzoate. My ultimate goal is to help parents transition their children to a 100% organic, whole foods diet. Foods that need no labels. Foods that are grown in the earth, not a lab, and foods that most definitely cannot sit on a shelf for a year undisturbed. But for now, if your first step is just to throw out everything with the dyes and preservatives, and avoid sodas and bottled drinks at all costs, you are making a huge leap towards the health of your child’s brain.
If you want a list of 25 healthy snacks for your kids, stay tuned! I’ll be posting those next!