ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - More than five million children in this country are diagnosed with ADHD but studies show they may not have the disorder.
Some research shows certain foods make certain kids appear to have the condition when in fact, they do not.
Whether it is Skittles, Pop-Tarts, or Hawaiian Punch, food coloring makes items look appealing. But did you know the base ingredient of the coloring is petroleum? That is one of the reasons the safety of food dye has been debated for nearly 80 years.
Some research shows red dye could have a connection to hyperactivity. Other studies are not conclusive. Still parents like Laura Kitchen don't need any research.
She has seen its affects in her six year old son, Thomas.
"He was bouncing around non-stop just uncontrollably--wouldn't listen, wouldn't even focus on anything," explains Kitchen. She was worried that her son may have ADHD and took him to neuropsychologist Dr. Michael Wolff who treats children with hyperactivity disorders.
Dr. Wolff recommended eliminating Red Dye 40 from Thomas' diet. "Some of our first responses here are to look at general health and to remove artificial food dyes which are a very common recommendation."
Laura noticed results right away. "When doing that, he's that sweet gentle kid all the time." But after eating a food with Red Dye 40 there's a definite change. "He just gets this really kind of aggressive look like you can see a change in him."
I showed the video of Thomas to St. Louis Children's hospital pediatrician Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann.
"I have no doubt there are some children who are sensitive to food dyes and have hyperactivity in response to food dyes. But it's a generalization to say all children will become hyperactive when they eat red dye," she said.
In Europe, products with food dyes have warning labels regarding the possible link to hyperactivity. An FDA committee considered a similar move in the United States two years ago, but ultimately decided against it.
The I-Team asked why and was sent a statement saying:
"The FDA continues to be engaged in the scientific and regulatory review of color additives in food and their potential impact on various populations, including children."
That isn't good enough for Thomas's mom.
"I don't know why the FDA approves dyes which are filled with chemicals to go into our food at all," Kitchen said.
Dr. Berchelmann, a parent of four with one on the way, limits her children's exposure to foods with dye.
She offered the following advice: "It's very hard to eliminate food dye completely from your diet and if your child needs an occasional medication that contains red food dye or gets some candy from a special party, don't stress over it. It's going to be okay."
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