Did you know that the most commonly used food dyes are made from petroleum? (Yes, I said petroleum.) And, no, it is not a different petroleum than what is used for our cars. I wonder, would any of us mothers consider putting a teaspoon of motor oil into our child's breakfast cereal every morning? Probably not. The petroleum in our food dyes can pose several known health risks including hyperactivity in children, cancer and allergic reactions. Michelle from Triplets Plus One = Four Times the Fun has a great article on food dyes, specifically Red 40. Take a minute to read her post Feeding Our Children Petroleum: Food Dye and Hyperactivity.
I recently learned that the British government and European Union have taken measures to end the use of synthetic food dyes throughout Europe. Sadly the United States has not been so quick to take action. This means that the Kellogg's NutriGrain bars sold in Europe are made with natural colorings such as beetroot red, annatto and paprika extract. (no petroleum) While the NutriGrain bars sold here in United States are colored with Red No. 40, Yellow No. 6 and Blue No. 1. (lots of petroleum.) As a mother of a child with ADHD symptoms, this does not make me happy.
My husband and I made a connection some time ago between foods with overt dyes (such as M&Ms and Lucky Charms) and our son's behavior. Once we made the connection we limited those foods, only allowing them on "special occasions." We eventually reached a point where we did not allow them period because the repercussions were just not worth it. It was around this time that we heard of the Feingold Association of United States. The Feingold Association is a "nonprofit organization whose purposes are to support its members in the implementation of the Feingold diet and generate public awareness of the role of food and synthetic additives in behaviour, learning and health problems". The Feingold diet is based upon the findings of the late Dr. Ben Feingold, a pediatrician and allergist, who in 1965 began observation of the link between certain foods and additives and their effect on some individuals behavior and ability to learn. The Feingold Program is based upon an elimination diet where all synthetic colors and flavors are removed as well as BHA, BHT, TBHQ, synthetic sweeteners and natural salicylates. Our son began the Feingold program in January 2011 and we noticed a significant improvement around 4-5 weeks into the diet. Many children respond much sooner, some as early as 2-3 days into the diet.
If you are a parent of a struggling or difficult child, please take some time to read about the effects of the artificially flavored and colored food your child is consuming. Please visit the Feingold Assocation website and learn more about their program. I suggest you start here. It is a symptom checklist for the behavior, learning and health problems that can be improved with the Feingold program. It has been a tremendous source of hope and encouragement for us.
If you think your child may benefit from the Feingold program, don't be intimidated! There are so many friendly members willing to offer support and encouragement. I hope you will find this blog a source of information as well. I will regularly be updating with recipes and tips for making the Feingold program easy for busy moms!
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