Artificial Food Coloring Is Evil (Part 2)

The U.S. Food & Drug Agency (FDA) is holding hearings over the next two days on artificial food coloring in our food supply and the effect it has on children with ADHD. They have asked for a panel of experts to present evidence of a link between these artificial dyes in food and ADHD in kids, with possible recommendations on policy changes like warning labels on food. Believe me, I’m pleased to see the attention it is getting which means more parents are learning about the harmful effects of artificial food colors. Here are the links to some of the mainstream media coverage of it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/health/policy/30fda.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471904576228550619608050.html

http://www.usnews.com/mobile/articles_mobile/fda-panel-examines-possible-links-between-food-dyes-adhd

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/food-dyes-hyperactivity/story?id=13221478

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-rainbow-of-food-dyes-in-our-grocery-aisles-has-a-dark-side/2011/03/21/AFyIwaYB_story.html

http://healthland.time.com/2011/03/28/does-food-dye-make-kids-hyper-an-fda-panel-will-investigate/

I am not holding my breath that the FDA will actually ban the dyes, in fact I know they won’t. Maybe a warning label, but I doubt it would be stern enough to draw any attention from unsuspecting consumers. Yes, I’m cynical when it comes to our FDA actually doing something that is good for us, the consumer. They lean more toward protecting the food and drug manufacturers that will put a lot of money against any initiative to ban or label their products with artificial dyes. After all, their future job security at these consumer packaged goods companies are at risk if they do their present job at the FDA correctly. Yes, the job exchange program between food and drug manufacturers and our FDA and CDC happens all the time…and it’s been going on for years.

All that really needs to be done is have some of the high level decision makers at the FDA feed their kids a diet filled with these toxic food dyes for two days and monitor their behavior at home and school. Then take them completely off the dyes for a few days and see the dramatic difference. And it does not ONLY affect kids with “sensitivities” like some media outlets are reporting. You don’t have to have ADHD or autism to be affected by these dyes. Read my original post to learn more about them and how they are manufactured.

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/artificial-food-coloring-is-evil/

I’m sure if food and drug manufacturers do have to put a disclaimer on their packaging we will see some really awful television ads renaming their artificial food dyes to something like “natural colorful additives”.  You may think I’m being sarcastic, but have you heard how the Corn Refiners Association (corn farming industry) has renamed High Fructose Corn Syrup to “Corn Sugar”?  And they even have the audacity to say that corn sugar is handled the same by your body as sugar or honey. HA!  You can read just how our body processes that artificial sweetener in my post below. This deceptive marketing is tolerated by our FDA.  Enough said.

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/just-say-no-to-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

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What About Neurofeedback Instead Of Drugs?

When our son was diagnosed with ADHD approximately four years ago, we looked into a drug free treatment for it and stumbled upon neurofeedback (NFB). We never did take the pharmaceutical route, but it wasn’t until this past January (four years later) that we finally jumped in feet first and committed to the neurofeedback for our son. He was 10 yrs old. Our son had difficulty focusing, self-initiation of work, emotional and impulse control, incomplete classwork, couldn’t take notes during lectures, or do his homework without my constant nagging, prodding and watchful eye.

Oh, how I wished we had saved him years of frustration, poor self-esteem, forgetfulness and difficulty with school and homework by doing this back when he was 7 yrs. old.  It is by far the most effective treatment for ADD/ADHD I have ever experienced. We’ve done biomedical treatments for him which has eliminated a lot of symptoms, but his brain neurons needed more help. I highly recommend incorporating biomeds or at the bare minimum, a clean diet with neurofeedback.

The brain is going to need all the support it can get and the first thing you should do before starting NFB is to change the diet. By eating fruit and veggies with less pesticides, no artificial dyes/flavors/preservatives, eliminating msg, nitrites and sulfites. Yes, that means cut out Gatorade, Flamin Hot Cheetos, Skittles, Beef Jerky, cured meats and add in whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Oh the horror! Trust me, the pay off is well worth the pain of denying a 9 yr. old his request to stop at 7Eleven for his favorite junk food run.

What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback. In biofeedback, information about some part of your body is fed back to you, and you are able to gain control over yourself in a way previously unavailable.

In neurofeedback the information that is fed back to you is EEG (electroencephalogram) data read by sensors placed on your head. Very tiny amounts of electric energy are read and processed by electronic and computer equipment to provide you with moment by moment information about your brain activity.

Brain cells communicate with one another, in part, through a constant storm of electrical impulses. Their patterns show up on an electroencephalogram, or EEG, as brain waves with different frequencies. NFB practitioners first create a “brain map”, the initial EEG readings on their patient to serve as a guide for treatment.

Excessive fast or slow activity is associated with brain dysregulation, and a variety of clinical symptoms.  For example, my son’s EEG showed high Theta waves which are responsible for our daydream state. That explained why he “zoned” out in class and daydreamed, lacked focus and attention. The EEG can show which areas of the brain have high or low wave frequency, or when parts of the brain aren’t communicating adequately with other parts.  Training changes in that activity helps improve self-regulation.

This activity is shown to the neurofeedback therapist as wave patterns on a computer screen, and to patients as visual graphics–ranging from cars racing one another to rapidly changing side by side puzzles. The NFB practitioner will help the patient speed up or slow down the brain waves. The goal is explained to the patient (make one car go faster than the other), and the brain learns how to make that happen without the person knowing how they do it. A sound also beeps when the brain behaves as desired, which helps. Simply wanting to hear the beeps seems to be enough to get the brain to cooperate. This is known as operant conditioning, which forms an association between a behavior and a consequence.

Why do neurofeedback?

When you or your child has difficulty paying attention, or has feelings of depression or anxiety, or perhaps can’t stop thinking about something, is it a psychological or a physiological problem?

Utilizing neurofeedback to train the brain can change these problems.  This is a short list of what NFB can improve:

  • alertness
  • attention
  • emotional regulation
  • behavior
  • cognitive function and mental flexibility

Some of the conditions NFB is used to treat are:

  • ADD/ADHD
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Migraines
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

When you change the brain, it undoubtedly affects the mind.  The NFB training produces a measurable physiological effect on the brain.  When you give the brain information about itself, it has an enormous capacity for change.  Neurofeedback makes the information available to the brain almost instantly, and asks it to make adjustments.  The brain can respond rapidly.  Changes in the EEG due to feedback tend to correlate with improved behavior, mood, affect regulation and attention.

Our Success Story

Neurofeedback is usually done in 1/2 hr sessions, one to three times per week. Approximately 30-40 sessions are the standard for optimal change in brain waves. After the first 10 sessions, about 3 weeks into the therapy, I noticed the first dramatic change in my son. He no longer displayed oppositional behaviors and his emotion regulation was normal. He used to anger or get frustrated easily, but that was changed to a more normal emotional response. About the 20th session, his teacher at school noticed his ability to start his work independently. He was able to complete his work 75% of time and it was improving with each session. By the end of 40 sessions, my son was able to focus in school, complete assignments, take notes, write paragraphs unassisted, start and finish his homework by himself.

NFB is not covered by most health insurance and can be costly. The price ranges between $3,000- $5,000 for the brain map and 4o sessions. The good news is that NFB changes are permanent. As a parent that has forgone new living room furniture, a new car in the past 7 years, and countless other material things, the cost was well worth the payoff for my child and my sanity!  NFB works.  All I can say is if you are considering it, do it now. Don’t put it off until “we can afford it”. Work it out and it can change your child’s life. It has mine.

Red Gatorade, Blue Jello, Purple Yogurt. What the __?

What is the consumer packaged goods industry doing to our children?  Better yet, do parents know what makes that yogurt neon purple, the Gatorade fire engine red, or the Jello bright blue? Do you know what is in your child’s junk, er, I mean snack food? I’m not even sure they should qualify as a food item.  Junk food is an oxymoron; junk is not a food.  Our bodies don’t require red dye #40 to function properly. Nor does it need high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) for energy.

What ever happened to giving our children water when they are thirsty?  Kids on the soccer field are panting, drenched in sweat, thirsty and refueling their bodies with Gatorade that contains red dye #40, blue #1, or yellow #5.  Not to mention the HFCS, citric acid (aka MSG), and artificial flavors.  I’ve heard it before,  “my kid won’t drink water”.  Well, it is boring and unflavored. But does everything a child consumes need to have a color and flavor added?

My kids, given the choice, would choose a sugary drink like Capri Sun or a juice box over water (most of the time) when they want a drink.  But when they open the refrigerator door at home, their only option is water. Juice is there, in a jug. But my seven-year-old said juice is only for breakfast. Today, he chose to drink water over juice with his eggs at breakfast. Sounds strange, I know. But our children don’t always make the right, healthy choice for themselves. So it is up to us parents to help them.

And it’s increasingly hard to do that with all the unhealthy, popular options the consumer packaged food industry provides.  So what is a parent to do? Well first off, try to shop alone, without your kids who have been bombarded with t.v. commercials touting the latest and greatest snack food. Here’s what I have done, and it works for us in our home.

  1. Thirsty? Only bring water in BPA free bottles. Kids will drink it, if they are thirsty enough. And once they get used to it, their thirst will only be quenched by water. Their body will crave it.
  2. Soda? Not in our house. Our “special treat” drink for my eleven-year-old is the Virgil’s Root Beer sold at Trader Joe’s. It uses natural spices and cane sugar. Another option is Izze Sparkling Juice drinks. They contain no refined sugars, caffeine, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors.  These drinks are only bought as a special treat, once in a while. Not stocked in our fridge on a regular basis.
  3. Pop tarts? For those of you not on a GF/CF diet, and your kids can’t live without a Kellogg’s Pop Tart, try Nature’s Path Organic Toaster Pastries sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and your local grocer.  Free of artificial colors and flavors!
  4. Snack chips? Well, no Doritos or Cheetos at our house. Too much MSG, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.  We buy Lay’s Potato chips. Plain, no added flavor (or colors).  Trader Joe’s sells an alternative to Cheetos, called Cheese Puffs (not gf/cf).  Sun Chips (also not gf/cf) original flavor are the only ones without artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and MSG.
  5. Yogurt? Please read the ingredient listing on any yogurt you buy in the grocery store. You’ll find numerous colors, artificial flavors and tons of (hidden) MSG. The worse offender is Trix yogurt with the artificial colors and flavors, but Dannon’s Danimals have a lot of hidden MSG.  Better options are available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
  6. Chocolate syrup?  Well, Hershey’s is made from high fructose corn syrup and has artificial flavor and preservatives. Nesquik Chocolate syrup has HFCS, artificial flavors, preservatives and colors. Trader Joe’s sells Midnight Moo that doesn’t contain HFCS or artificial ingredients. Whole Foods sells one that is gf/cf.  Better yet, make your own with your own natural ingredients.
  7. Ketchup? Heinz contains HFCS and natural flavoring (where MSG hides).  We use Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup.
  8. Fruit Roll Ups?  Try Stretch Island Fruit Co. fruit leathers, Florida Natural’s Fruit Juice Strings/Nuggets or Clif Kid Twisted Fruit Ropes.
  9. Breakfast Cereal?  There are so many unhealthy brands in the grocery store. They are chock full of sugar, artificial colors, flavor and preservatives and hidden MSG. Our alternatives are Kellogg’s Crispix, EnviroKids Gorilla Munch (found at Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods) and Trader Joe’s Honey Nut O’s.
  10. Cookies?  Bake my own with natural ingredients. We also will purchase Trader Joe’s All Natural Joe Joe’s. Just like Oreos, but without the artificial ingredients and HFCS.

I know it may be less expensive, convenient and popular to buy the packaged foods available in our local grocery store. But what are you sacrificing to save that money, time and whining from your kids?  Our children need us to play food cop and teach them the right choices so they can avoid obesity, diabetes, cancer and unnecessary hyperactivity. Ideally they are eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and good sources of protein. Right now, I’d settle to just see our generation of children eat better packaged food choices. And less of them.


Related blogs:

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/artificial-food-coloring-is-evil/

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/just-say-no-to-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/get-extra-msg/

Artificial food coloring is evil.

A magnet with this phrase hangs on my refrigerator; and it’s also stated on my cooking apron. As I pondered on how to approach this subject, I remember back to the days when I never read a food label or candy (no, it’s not food) label.  Ignorance sure was bliss…but was it? My kids would get impulsive, oppositional, hyper, spin around, lack focus, and make non-stop sounds before the “food label police” showed up at our house.  So I guess it wasn’t really bliss after all. I traded those behaviors for the inconvenience of having to read every single label on every single food item I bought or was given to my kids. But the trade-off was worth it!

My kids became calmer, quieter and not so emotionally charged. Melt downs decreased. Sleep habits improved. And above all, I knew that I was improving the health of my children, which is a good thing.

Yes, I do have to tell my kids NO to certain requests for food or candy their friends are eating, and at parties, or that dreaded artificial food colors and flavors/high fructose corn syrup holiday we celebrate, Halloween.  Or I pay the price of crazy behavior if I cave in and “let them eat colorful cake”. So I got resourceful or creative, however you view it. I taught my oldest son (he was eight-years-old at the time) to read food labels and explained what additives are bad for our bodies. He actually learned to read the label before he asked if we could buy something.  And I’d bite my lower lip whenever he picked up something I knew would have artificial ingredients in it and say “Shoot!” as he came across some artificial preservatives, colors or flavors. I let my kids trick-or-treat on Halloween. It’s one of their favorite holidays.  They get to choose one piece of candy to eat and then we trade the bag for a new toy (Legos at my house).  I buy candy treats that don’t have artificial ingredients. It definitely tastes better.

If you are not already familiar with the numbers you see on food labels, here are the most common: FD&C Blue Nos. 1 and 2, FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Red No. 3, FD&C Yellow Nos. 5 and 6, Citrus Red No. 2.  And that lovely, ubiquitous Red No. 40 that can trigger such ugly behaviors in most kids. Red 40 is used in many food products including Kool-Aid, orange and other flavored sodas, Cheetos and Doritos chips (and the ever popular Flamin’ Hot Cheetos), strawberry Pop-Tarts, any candy with red coloring to it including M&M’s, Skittles, many chewing gums, etc. Also many children’s vitamins and pain relievers/cold medicine have red 40 in the ingredients. Why? Because if it’s colorful, our kids will want to eat it or take the medicine.

How many asthma sufferers are told by their allergists to avoid FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine)? There is a reason that food and medicine labels must declare that ingredient. This is an extended version of the ingredient declaration:  “This product contains FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine) which may cause allergic-type reactions (including bronchial asthma) in certain susceptible persons.”

Here is the biggest reason I think artificial (synthetic) food coloring is evil. Petroleum. Yes, most synthetic food dyes are created from petroleum.  The same base used to manufacture gasoline and heating fuels.  And if that’s not enough to make you spit out that Skittle, FD&C Blue No. 2 is manufactured in a chemical process that includes formaldehyde, aniline, several hydrozides under ammonia pressure, and heating in the presences of sulfuric acid. Oh, don’t worry, each batch is tested to ensure it doesn’t exceed the FDA’s prescribed limits for impurities. Most impurities are in the forms of salts or acids, but others include lead, arsenic and mercury. Yikes!

I’m sure you are asking yourself  “Why are these food dyes so common in our processed food supply? Why does the FDA allow it?” Well, that’s a topic for another blog.   The U.S. FDA hasn’t studied the effects of synthetic dyes on behavior in children. Another country did though. A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial was conducted at Southampton University in England. They found a link to food dyes and hyperactive behavior in children. The research does not prove that food colorings actually cause ADHD behaviors but there does seem to be a link. The results were published in The Lancet medical journal in September of 2007.  The results of the study was a story in Time magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1661703,00.html

Since this study, the U.K. banned artificial food dyes in 2008 and demand manufacturers use natural ones. U.S. companies use natural products in the U.K., while continuing to use artificial dyes in the products sold in the U.S.  Here’s something to chew on:

  • Aunt Jemima Blueberry Waffles contains no blueberries. The blue “bits” are Red 40 and Blue 2.
  • McDonald’s strawberry sauce, well it’s actually “McRed40” sauce. (The U.K. gets real strawberries)
  • Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats Blueberry Muffin has no real blueberries. Their “blueberry crunchies” are made with corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and the colorful combo of Blue 2 and Red 40.
  • Kraft’s Guacamole Dip doesn’t get its greenish color from actual avocados. It gets it from the dye combo of Yellow 5 & 6 and Blue 1.
  • U.K. M&M’s and Skittles have natural food dyes in them. The ones with the bright colors made with artificial dyes are sold in the U.S.  Ours are prettier and brighter because natural dyes don’t have that artificial bright pigment you can obtain with a petro base. Don’t you feel special? Thanks to our FDA!

There are alternatives to foods and candy without dyes. And a great source is the Feingold Association. They have a shopping list of foods without these dyes listed by category and manufacturer.  Their website is http://www.feingold.org/.

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/artificial-food-coloring-is-evil-part-2/

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