by Catarina Rivera
My little cousin had some difficulties with attention and learning when he was growing up. His family was pushed to put him on prescription medication like Ritalin. His parents wanted to explore other alternatives. With the support of their doctor, they put him on an elimination diet. He ate a bland diet with foods that are largely believed not to trigger sensitivities or reactions. Then they started adding in other foods and observing the changes in his behavior. They noticed he started to act very hyper anytime he ate anything with food coloring or artificial colors. Even now as a teenager he told me, “I can’t eat stuff with artificial colors. It’ll make me crazy.”
My cousin’s experience is consistent with many people’s view of artificial colors. We need to be aware of the research and examine our children’s diets. A 2007 research study found that a diet with artificial colors and the preservative sodium benzoate increased hyperactive behavior in the children studied. This finding is alarming considering that today’s children eat as many as five times more food dyes than they did fifty years ago.
Artificial colors are found in many products, not limited to just food products. I have observed artificial colors in Method liquid hand soap, as well as St. Ives body lotion. These products are marketed as natural, yet they contain artificial coloring. I have also seen artificial colors used in most mainstream toothpastes. Soon I started to realize that anything with bright, fluorescent colors was usually made with artificial coloring.
In response to consumer demand in Europe, large U.S. companies like Kraft have reformulated their products without artificial coloring or sodium benzoate. Children overseas seem to be getting safer products than children here. We need to ask companies to bring their reformulated products to the U.S. market as well so we can all reap the benefits.
My suggestions are to make yourself aware of all the sources where your child may be ingesting artificial colors. Start examining those food labels and ingredients list even on health and beauty products. If your child has issues with hyperactivity or ADHD, it might be worth it to start a food diary and see if eliminating artificial colors improves their behavior. Teach them to watch out for foods that have bright, unnatural colors like Fruit by the Foot or Fruit Loops. Many children’s products have artificial colors to make them attractive and appealing to kids. Talk to your friends about artificial colors and spread awareness.
Diet can have an impact on your child’s behavior, health, and well-being. Educating ourselves about the links between food and our bodies will help us to maintain healthier lifestyles. It’s important to unify our voices against artificial coloring, among other issues. Check your nutrition labels and notice how much artificial coloring surrounds us!
To learn more about Catarina, visit her website.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.