Are Food Additives Making Your Kids Hyperactive?

A new study suggests that food additives such as the commonly used preservative sodium benzoate may cause children to become hyper.

Researchers gave 150 three-year-olds and about 150 eight and nine-year-olds drinks that contained “either a mixture with sodium benzoate, a preservative, and several food colorings, or drinks that looked and tasted the same but contained none of the additives,” according to the WSJ Health Blog.

The results of the study showed that the children who ingested the sodium benzoate and food coloring were more likely to suffer from hyperactivity and attention deficit problems.

Britian’s Food Standards Agency funded the study and is now suggesting parents try eliminating food coloring and sodium benzoate from the diets of hyperactive children to see if that improves their condition.

Do people usually let three-year-olds drink Coke? We’re so out of touch.

Food Additives May Make Kids More Hyper [WSJ Health Blog]


Edit Your Comment

  1. HeyThereKiller says:

    “Do people usually let three-year-olds drink Coke? We’re so out of touch.”

    How old are Britney Spears’ kids now?

  2. TedSez says:

    If they know how to make drinks that look and taste the same without any additives, I suggest these researchers start a beverage company.

  3. kahri says:

    So my hyperactive kids are suffering? When are we going to let kids be kids? If they’re playing, running around and screaming they’re hyperactive or worse ADHD. Funny how most kids have ADHD in school yet show no signs of it when playing video games. Soda makes kids hyper, no shit. And cheeseburgers makes daddy fat.

  4. dbeahn says:

    Part of the problem is the “zero” drinks. No caffine, no sugar, no sodium. Seems like it’d be OK to give to a kid, just some flavor and carbination.

    Apparently there are other bad things in there that no one even knew about.

  5. timmus says:

    For the Lancet, apple222/apple222 worked for me to view the article.

    The food additives were: MIX A: sunset yellow, carmoisine, tartrazine, ponceau, and sodium benzoate; MIX B: sunset yellow, carmoisine, quinoline yellow, allura red, and sodium benzoate. Since sodium benzoate, carmoisine, and sunset yellow are common to both mixes I don’t think it can be said conclusively that sodium benzoate is what’s doing it.

  6. Daemon_of_Waffle says:

    Shall we suggest nothing but water? It seems to have sustained humanity for the last 10,000+ years.

  7. marsneedsrabbits says:

    My aunt believed this back in the 1970’s and started feeding my jerky cousin food without preservatives and especially without food dyes.
    It did seem to make a different for a while when we were kids, but then she stopped because it was “too complicated” and he reverted to his previous level of jerkiness.
    Anyway: I guess my point is that kids shouldn’t be eating highly preserved and dyed foods to start with. It really isn’t that complicated.
    Garbage in = Garbage Out.

  8. kahri says:

    @Daemon_of_Waffle: you must not have children. Besides, even though you know it’s the healthiest way to go, Do you drink “nothing but water”? I doubt it.

  9. chinadoll724 says:


    I think the problem is shelf life, not just flavor and color. That’s what most of the chemicals are there to do.

  10. tinky XIII says:

    My goddaughter drinks milk, Pediasure, and fruit juice. She occasionally gets a sip or two of soda, usually root beer. Right now she’s 20 months old, and shies away from most soft drinks. Though she does occasionally get a shot or two of coffee in her Pediasure.

  11. hypnotik_jello says:

    @kahri: Surprisingly some of us do drink mostly water or more importantly natural products. “Nothing but water” is a stretch though.

    I drink only water, natural juices (nothing with HFCS, thank you very much), beer, wine, scotch, and coffee (self-brewed espresso) and green tea. During the day at work I only drink either a) water or b) sparkling water. or c) beer.

    haven’t had a soda in something like 5 years.

  12. LionelEHutz says:

    So is Red Bull bad for kids?

  13. You hate your job but you're still working there? says:

    Ok, so a drink that’s not full of sugar, coloring, or preservatives….

    Hm…I guess that leaves water. And maybe milk. Maybe.

  14. tinychicken says:

    @kahri: My daughter very rarely drinks anything other than water or milk. Even at a restaurant when given a choice she will usually request water. When you start your child out that way it doesn’t seem to them like you’re taking anything away and frankly, it’s much cheaper.

  15. Daemon_of_Waffle says:

    @kahri: Kids? Why would I want to complicate my life?

  16. appleface says:

    @LionelEHutz: Yuppers that stuff can do nasty stuff to your cardiovascular system. []

  17. Sidecutter says:

    @HeyThereKiller: Britney Spears’ kids are a different story though. The Coke they’re drinking isn’t something you can buy in a store…

  18. Pasketti says:

    I drink only distilled water, or rain water, and only pure grain alcohol. Keeps the foreign substances out of my precious bodily fluids, and prevents loss of essence.

  19. TheName says:

    So, not only does the stuff mess with your DNA ([]) but it makes your kids hyper while doing it?! As for conclusiveness of the conclusion … who cares? The stuff clearly ain’t good for you even if it ain’t making you hyper.

    Glad I haven’t touched soda in years (coffee, tea, water, and beer for me, thank you very much).

  20. Steel_Pelican says:

    @Pasketti: Do women sense your power and seek the life essence?

  21. Trai_Dep says:

    150 four- and 150 nine-year-olds? In the same rooms? Observing them closely after pumping them full of hyper-juice?

    Jeezus, I hope the researchers get knighted for this.

    Much braver than I, I’ll gladly admit. :)

  22. A friend of my grandmother found that eliminating certain food dyes (red, I forget the number) from her daughter’s diet calmed her down. FWIW, YMMV

  23. mac-phisto says:

    Do people usually let three-year-olds drink Coke? We’re so out of touch.

    have you been to a mcdonald’s? it’s like a goddamn daycare in there around lunchtime. last week i stopped in one to fill a fry fix & i damned near went deaf from the shrieking kids. at best, they’re sucking hi-c through their straws, but i doubt half of those parents were even supervising their kids during the drink fill-up.

  24. BoorRichard says:

    Our kids drink only water and milk, most days. Only one likes chocolate milk, and we give her some frou-frou organic chocolate syrup that’s mainly cane sugar. On the rare days they get juice, it’s carrot/apple. And all of this does not seem remarkable to them or us, despite my boorish bragging about it on a consumer forum.

    Point is, yeah, it’s totally possible and even easy to limit your kids to milk and water.

    My kids aren’t hyper but I have no idea if this is related to that.

  25. paco says:

    When my daughter was three, I figured out that every time she had something with red no. *something* in it, she had wild mood and energy swings. She’s five now, and while I can’t control everything she gets at school or friends’ houses, I keep a very close eye on everything that we buy.

  26. kahri says:

    @hypnotik_jello: That was my point. My daughter won’t drink anything but water, milk & apple juice.(don’t know why, but then who understands kids) My point was that although we may know what the ‘best’ choice is, we know most don’t in turn consume ‘nothing but’.
    @tinychicken: One of mine too (read above), and I’m glad. But I think we make too big a deal about this. Most juices have some sort of preservatives in them, as well as most of our food (unless it’s local or from your backyard). I strive to find a healthy balance like my parents did with me. I did drink soda as a kid, just not all day. BTW I’m 5’11” and weigh about 160 and trust me I know what McDonalds and Coke taste like.
    @Daemon_of_Waffle: Because that’s someone else that can refill the Brita.

  27. legotech says:

    @kahri: Sure hope you don’t think that letting the kids run around screaming is ok when they are NOT AT HOME. I nearly killed the parent of a little boy at the supermarket, she was ignoring him while he was running up and down the aisles screaming…then he’d run to the cart, hit his little sister and run away screaming some more. Why do parents think this is acceptable behavior in public?? Take ’em to a park or your backyard, but the supermarket? The bookstore? The LIBRARY???

    There’s a reason I think people should have to get a license to have kids.


  28. formergr says:

    @tinkyXIII: Not to single you out, but do you know why her parent(s) give her Pediasure? I don’t understand the Pediasure craze– that stuff was created for hospitalized kids who can’t eat because of illness or injory.

    The marketing gods there had a flash of brilliance and started pimping out as a way for brats who won’t eat their fruits and vegetables to get their vitamins. I *hate* the Pediasure commercials where the brat in the grocery cart keeps telling her mom that she doesn’t like anything mom tries to put in the cart.

    Anyway, it’s a whole bunch of chemicals, artificial flavors, and sugar in there, so it irks me when people view it as “healthy”. Just give the kid some milk– if they’re allergic they can’t drink the Pediasure anyway.

  29. badgeman46 says:

    Its all a bunch of baloney! Back in my day, people didnt have ADD, they just didn’t pay attention. We didn’t have hyperactivity. Kids were just excitable. Plus parents used to give kids Paragoric when they were teething, or had aches. Thats morphine people! If you make up a disease, someone is going to have it. Give me cane sugar or give me death!

  30. bboehm says:

    Blame it all on Ethylene Glycol.

  31. Pasketti says:

    @Steel_Pelican: I do not avoid women, but I deny them my essence.

  32. Celeste says:

    What y’all are referring to is the feingold diet, which has been used by parents of ADHD children who did not want to medicate them since the 70’s. So I wouldn’t exactly call this study breaking news, but I would chalk up further validation for Dr. Feingold’s theories. I’ve long thought that there had to be some connection between the rise in consumption of fake foods and the rise in the number of children diagnosed as ADD/ADHD. If you’re a parent, and concerned about the idea of feeding your child a drug with a street-value for the rest of his life, it’s an option worth at least exploring. (Refilling a prescription for ritalin is a massive pain in the ass.)

    And sadly, yes, there are actually parents who put sprite in their toddler’s sippy cups.

  33. SaraAB87 says:

    I thought pediasure was something you give kids when they have an illness like diarreaha so that they don’t get dehydrated. I never thought of it as something you give them everyday like a vitamin to make them healthier.

    The parents in my family put juice in the sippy cups (the typical juice from store shelves) however that juice was filled with insane amounts of sugars, have you ever tasted juice from the shelf, its so sugary even I can barely stand to drink it. If I want to drink it I actually have to water it down significantly before it becomes even remotely drinkable to me.

    As a child of the 80s I was considered a hyperactive child, so my parents did the eliminate red thing from my diet and I really didn’t miss it at all, I was a kid and didn’t know any better what they were doing. They refused to medicate me, nowadays I would have probably been considered an ADHD child or a child with a serious disorder that required medication. It did seem to help too, especially for those long days of sitting in a boring, catholic school classroom.

    McDonalds seems to be the leading Day Care spot for parents, those restaurants here are filled with nothing but kids who beg their parents to go there for the toy and the food, and virtually no other customers, its like the rest of the population has smartened up and learned to go elsewhere for food. Even in malls the only people in the McDonalds line are parents with small children and the rest of the population eats elsewhere.

  34. synergy says:

    Yeah, you’re out of touch. I saw and was shocked by a woman who poured soda into her infant’s baby bottle. I was so tempted to go up to her and smack her in the forehead like in the V8 commercials.