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Feingold Hypothesis -- Food Additives Cause Hyperactivity
Healthy diet!
Almost 30 years ago, in 1973, Benjamin Feingold M.D. presented extensive research to the American Medical Association linking food additives to learning and behavior disorders. His extensive research was based on over 1,200 cases and included over 3,000 different food additives. His pioneering work has been ridiculed and studies done to disprove his statements. However, in spite of these "negative Feingold studies" about 50% of those who have tried the Feingold diet (even subjects in published studies that went against Feingold's Hypothesis) had significant decreases in symptoms of hyperactivity. [J. Harley, R. Ray, L. Tomasi, et al. Hyperkinesis and food additives: Testing the Feingold hypothesis. Pediatrics 1978; 61: 811-817. and also F. Levy, S. Dumbrell, G. Hobbes et al. Hyperkinesis and diet. A double-blind crossover trial with tartrazine challenge. Medical Journal of Australia. 1978; 1: pgs 61-64.]

Interestingly, "negative study" researchers focused on only 10 food dyes versus the 3,000 food additives that Feingold had considered. (NOTE: The term Food Additives in the USA actually covers over 5,000 chemicals added to food products for various reasons—anti-caking, bleaching, coloring, flavoring, emulsifying, preserving, thickening.)

In spite of several studies attempting to disprove Feingold's "Food Additives Cause Hyperactivity" hypothesis, the doors have been reopened as it has become evident that food additives DO play a major role in the the hyperactivity of children. Recently, the US National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference on Defined Diets and Childhood Hyperactivity agreed to reconsider the Feingold diet due to the fact that the many studies disproving Feingold's hypothesis used inadequate guidelines in their study and testing process, making their results invalid. For example:

C. Keith Conners, author of "Food Additives and Hyperactive Children," has been the main researcher refuting the Feingold hypothesis. Schauss and Rippere have done studies of their own on the correlation of food additives and hyperactivity in children, and have come up with some criticisms of Conners' Research that are detailed below. [C. Goyette, C. Conners, T. Petti, L. Curtis. Effects of Artificial Colors on Hyperkinetic Children: A Double-blind Challenge Study. Psychopharmacology Bulletin 1978; 14: 39-40 and also, V. Rippere. Food Additives and Hyperactive Children: A Critique of Conners. Britain Journal of Clinical Psychology 1983; 22: 19-32]

  • Conners' used chocolate chip cookies as the placebo in his studies, which can hardly be considered an appropriate control substance. In studies of reactions to food in hyperkinetics, chocolate produced a reaction in 33% in one study and 59% in another.
  • The amount of food dye dosages used in Conners' studies was way below the average daily intake based on FDA data. On the average, most children, between the ages of 5 to 12, take in a daily dose of 150 mg of mixed food dyes. Conners used a dose of 26 mg a day in his studies, which doesn't even compare to the real amount of intake by children.
  • Low levels of food dye doses mixed with the long intervals at which they were given falls short of the real life scenario of most school-aged children.
  • The type of blood test for allergy determination is irrelevant in determining the result of food additive studies.
  • The scales used for behavior reactions was an inadequate measure of the true outcomes. The rating scale was subjective and did not test on daily intervals.
  • Conners was biased going into his studies which skewed his results. He did not take into account the affect of other environmental factors such as lighting, and he discounted evidence supporting Feingold's diet.

If Feingold's hypothesis becomes more widely accepted, the food industry will be greatly pressured into making costly changes in food processing that will erode their profits. This is thought to be the main reason why Feingold's studies have been discounted. In other words, there is a conflict of interest on the part of the Nutrition Foundation, an organization supported by the major food manufacturers--Coca Cola, Nabisco, General Foods, etc. With this organization sponsoring most of the negative studies it's no wonder these studies are trying to disprove Feingold's study. The major food manufacturers will fight with everything they have to keep researchers mouths shut regarding the harmful effects of artificial food additives because wide acceptance of Feingold's Research would economically hurt these companies. [Mattes J. The Feingold diet: A current reappraisal. Journal of Learning Disabilities 1983; 16: 319-323]