ADHD Home > ADHD and Food Dyes

Some research has shown that eliminating food dyes from the diet may have a positive effect on symptoms of ADHD. One study showed that children who consumed food dyes had a significant increase in hyperactivity. However, more research is needed to determine how food dyes affect ADHD symptoms and to address why some people are more susceptible to their effects.

Is There a Link Between Food Dyes and ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common childhood disorder, affecting approximately 7.8 percent of children aged 4 to 17 in the United States. Although it is most often recognized in school-aged children, it can affect people of all ages and can have a significant impact on function in academic and social settings, as well as in the workplace.
Stimulant medications, like methylphenidate, are the most commonly used treatment for ADHD. Most children (70 percent to 90 percent) will experience a decrease in hyperactivity and an increase in attention as a result of taking these medications. Multimodal approaches, however, are generally recommended in the treatment of ADHD.
Although medications are effective in treating the disorder, they rarely result in a complete reversal of the symptoms of ADHD and concerns about common side effects of medications on appetite, growth, and sleep cause some healthcare providers and parents to have reservations about relying solely on medications to treat ADHD.
Currently, the exact cause of ADHD is not well understood. It is known that genetics play a role, but environmental and lifestyle factors also have an impact on symptoms, leading researchers to search for definitive causes and alternative treatments for the disorder. These include psychological approaches, like neurofeedback and cognitive training, as well as dietary restrictions and fatty acid supplementation (see ADHD and Fish Oil).
Research has been conducted to investigate the effects of psychological treatments, as well as the link between nutrient deficiencies and ADHD, but one of the most studied alternative treatments is the elimination of artificial food dyes from the diet.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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