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How cutting out certain food additives could curb ADHD (and cancer too)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

soda.jpgA UK study published today in the Lancet reveals that certain food additives, including sodium benzoate and some colorings, likely play a role in the increasingly frequent diagnosis of ADHD in children. Researchers gave drink mixtures of additives to nearly three hundred children and, sure enough, they got rowdy. The chemicals affected some children more strongly than others, but effects were noted across the board, in the general population as well as in children with diagnosed ADHD.

The UK's Food Standards Agency is issuing revised recommendations for parents, advising that any who notice signs of hyperactivity in their children avoid those additives. Many are angry that the government didn't take it a step further and ban the chemicals -- after all, who has constant control over their children's diets these days? -- but the FSA has passed that responsibility on to the European Food Safety Authority. The article in the Guardian goes into more detail about the study and the government's response.

The guardian misses a couple of points, though. First of all:

Sodium benzoate+ascorbic acid+heat=BENZENE, a human carcinogen.
The FDA asked drink companies to fix that little problem way back in the early '90s, but many of them are just getting around to it now that they're being sued.

Also: this is a social justice issue. Junk food is bad for children, but when money's tight junk food is often the cheapest way to put calories in your kid's belly. Warning parents to avoid foods with certain additives is useless for those who can't afford anything else -- and, of course, for those who live in the food desserts created in certain metro areas. Many in the UK seem to believe that banning the additives is the answer, and it would force junk food manufacturers' hands, but in the end kids would still be eating junk food. The real answer is much simpler: increase access to fresh fruits and veggies. All signs point to that solution. Why is it so hard to accomplish?