Do food dyes contribute to ADHD in kids?

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PHOENIX – Even though the research is mixed on the affects food dyes can have on some children, the Food and Drug Administration recently decided not to require warning labels on foods that contain certain dyes.

An FDA advisory committee met for two days to discuss the topic in response to a petition filed in2008 by Center for Science in the Public Interest to ban Yellow 5, Red 40 and six other dyes.

While deciding against labeling requirements, the panel recognized the chemicals can cause issues for kids, especially those diagnosed with hyperactivity disorders.

With Easter coming up, bringing with it the tradition of dying eggs, many parents are concerned.

Dr. Art Mollen discussed those concerns with Kaley O’Kelley Tuesday morning.

Many foods and drinks, including ones often geared toward kids, contain dye additives. Without such dyes, the products would be clear or perhaps white.

“By adding these colorings, they [the manufactures] simply make it more fun [and more attractive], but there are no health benefits that have been associated with it,” Mollen said. “Nor have there been any detrimental effects to your physical well-being.”

Mollen went on to say if parents get a recommendation from their physician to eliminate the dyes from their children’s diet and see what happens, they should follow it.

“This panel, after a two-day meeting, suggested that it’s okay for parents to try these types of diets that eliminate the yellow dyes, the red dyes, the green dyes, the blue dyes – all of these -- for a period of time … and see it if has any definitive effect on your child.”

Some parents are advocates of such diets, insisting that the dyes – or lack thereof – do make a difference.

Many of the foods in question are associated with relatively high sugar content.

“Sugar has been associated with increasing hyperactivity,” Mollen said. “Perhaps in a lot of these foods, it’s the sugar that increases some of those symptoms of the ADHD as opposed to the dye itself. The dye perhaps has gotten a little bit of a bad wrap.”

While the FDA has decided not to go with labeling foods that contain certain dyes, its European counterpart does require such warning labels.