Artificial colourings can cause behavioural problems in children
There is some truth in this but generally the claims have been exaggerated. In 1973 an
American allergy specialist, Dr Ben Feingold, advanced the hypothesis that salicylates (chemicals
that occur naturally in some foods), artificial food flavours, and artificial colourings were
associated with hyperkinesis and learning disabilities in some children. Hyperkinesis in children is
characterised by a marked and inappropriate physical overactivity, short attention span, excessive
and unpredictable responses to stimuli, and other abnormal responses. Feingold claimed that a
high proportion of children with hyperkinesis and learning difficulties improved when put on a diet
that excluded foods containing salicylates, artificial colours and flavours. A number of studies
were initiated to investigate this claim. Although the results have been conflicting it is clear that
the improvement rate is much lower than originally claimed.
Nevertheless, some studies have demonstrated that, for a small number of children, some artificial
colours are associated with abnormal behaviour.