Easter Candy and Hyper Kids: A Colorful Connection
Every Easter, millions of children fill up on the jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and hard candies in their Easter baskets and become hyper as they savor their candies all week. Most parents never suspect that petroleum-based food dyes and other artificial additives are the most likely culprits behind their kids’ over activity.
“Even a tiny amount of food coloring can lead to hyperactivity and inattention in children” said Jane Hersey, director of the nonprofit Feingold Association, which helps children with learning and behavior problems. “Feed a child the synthetically dyed and flavored candies in a typical Easter basket, and you have a recipe for disaster!”
Americans now consume almost three times the amount of synthetic food dyes as they did in the 1980s, and a 2009 study from the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine suggests that this increase may be partly responsible for the rise in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which now affects 8.6% of children in this country.
Dr. Sanford C. Newmark, the study’s author, recommended that all families of children with ADHD eliminate artificial colors and preservatives from their children’s diet as much as possible.
Numerous other studies have also linked artificial food additives with hyperactivity and inattention, including a highly acclaimed Lancetstudy, which concluded that synthetic food dyes can trigger these problems in all children, not just those with ADHD. This study credited Dr. Ben Feingold, who developed the low-additive Feingold Diet, with first discovering the link between food additives and hyperactivity.
Given these additives’ harmful side effects, what should parents put in their children’s Easter baskets? Parents have a wide range of natural Easter candies to choose from including: chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, lollipops, peanut butter kisses, chocolate mint patties, gummi bears, and hard candies.
Hersey recommends looking for these candies at health food stores, healthy markets, specialty stores, and the natural foods section of supermarkets. Natural candies and many other brand-name foods that are free of unwanted additives are listed in the Feingold Association’s Food List & Shopping Guide and Mail Order Guide.
In addition to avoiding candies containing synthetic food dyes, she advises staying away from treats with artificial flavorings, the sweetener Aspartame, and the preservatives BHA, BHT, and TBHQ, all of which have been linked with behavior and learning problems.
Hersey suggests that anyone coloring Easter eggs wear gloves to protect their hands from dyes, and she advises parents to discourage children from eating the eggs if synthetic dyes have seeped through the shells. Other options include using brightly colored plastic Easter eggs and coloring boiled eggs with natural dyes.
“Be sure to top off the basket with a stuffed Easter bunny or chick, which not only adds charm, but also helps take the emphasis off of sweets,” she said.
Finally, Hersey recommends feeding children breakfast before letting them indulge in Easter treats and planning an event such as an Easter egg hunt to help them work off excess energy and calories.
“If you follow these simple steps, your children can have beautiful Easter baskets full of delicious natural treats, and you can enjoy a much more peaceful day,” said Hersey, whose daughter and husband were both helped by the Feingold Diet.
The Feingold Association
The nonprofit Feingold Association helps parents of children with learning/behavior problems implement the Feingold Diet and conducts in-depth research with food companies to identify which products are free of synthetic colorings, artificial flavorings, and certain preservatives. The charity’s advisory board and board of directors include medical professionals from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Rochester, Stony Brook University, Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital, and other institutions.
Individual dietary needs vary and no one diet will meet everyone’s daily requirements. Before starting any new diet, check with your doctor or nutritionist.
Jane Hersey is director of the Feingold Association and author of Why Can’t My Child Behave? A former teacher and Head Start consultant, she has testified before the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Congress about ADHD and diet. She frequently lectures at educational associations, hospitals, medical groups, universities, and schools across the United States and helped initiate one of the first low-additive school food programs in the country in the 1980s.
Newmark SC. Nutritional intervention in ADHD. Explore (NY). May-Jun 2009;5(3):171-4.
McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, et al. Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. Nov 2007;370(9598):1560-7.
Disclaimer: The information in this press release is for educational purposes only and its author is not engaged in providing medical or psychological services or advice to individuals. It should not be used to replace competent in-person medical or psychological consultation or diagnosis and no person should delay in seeking medical or psychological treatment in reliance on it. Although care has been taken to ensure its accuracy, Guzo Communications, LLC is not responsible for its validity or the consequence of its use.
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