(WZZM) - More than five million children in this country arediagnosed with ADHD, but how many of them truly have the disorder? Couldsome of those children be eating something that only makes them appearto have the condition?
Research has suggested a link between children who are hyper and appear to have ADHD, and Red Dye 40.
Color additives have been used to enhance our food for nearly 150years. The federal government began to oversee their use in the 1880sand in 1931 approved 15 dyes for food, medications, and cosmetics. Sixof those colors are still being used today.
But do you know what the base ingredient is? Petroleum, which is whythe safety of food dyes has been debated for nearly 80 years.
Lately the focus has been on Red Dye 40. Nearly a dozen studies sincethe 1980s show the dye may have an affect on children prone tohyperactivity.
Laura Kitchen doesn't need any research. She has seen its affects inher six year old son Thomas. "He loves to play with LEGOs. He buildstrucks together and builds trains. You can leave him alone in his roomfor a couple hours and he doesn't come down for anything... very selfsufficient," says Kitchen.
But Laura began to notice a definite personality change. "He wasbouncing around non-stop just uncontrollably--wouldn't listen, wouldn'teven focus on anything," explains Kitchen. She was worried that her sonmay have ADHD and took him to neuropsychologist Dr. Michael Wolff whotreats children with hyperactivity disorders.
Dr. Wolff recommended eliminating Red Dye 40 from Thomas' diet. "Someof our first responses here are to look at general health and to removeartificial food dyes which is a very common recommendation."
Lauranoticed results right away. "When doing that, he's that sweetgentle kid all the time." But after eating a food with Red Dye 40there's a definite change. "He just gets this really kind of aggressivelook like you can see a change in him."
As proof, Laura allowed Thomas to eat some foods with red dye so wecould witness the change: Red licorice andfruit rollups.Before, Thomascalmly plays with his sister. Then after the Red Dye 40, it took lessthan 15 minutes before he was nearly uncontrollable.
"He would say to me, I just can't control it I can't control what I do," says Kitchen.
Dr. Wolff, a neuropsychologist and the head of B.R.A.I.N.S. in GrandRapids viewed the video. Before: "Everything's very solid. There's notremoring, no disorganization. He's playing with toys with goodintent."
But after eating Red Dye 40: "He's a little bit more snide in the waythat he's looking. There's intentional pushing the limits here;alotmore animated and aggressive." Classic signs of what Dr. Wolff calls anallergic reaction.
"It can cause inflammation. Obviously the body is not used to taking alot of petroleum-based foods and it's something a lot of our bodies arehaving to adapt to more and more," says Dr. Wolff.
He describes that inflammation as a disconnect along the nervesrunning through the brain. "Planning, reasoning and making decisions areall areas that seem to be influenced by areas that are sensitive tofood dyes. You can see that activation even a little more here as to howit develops that hot spot in the right frontal part of the brain. It'stoo active and too engaged, it's hyper-excitable at this point,"explains Dr. Wolff.
It's the part of the brain also associated with ADHD. "The primaryreason may be there's more emotion in that right side of the brain, andit usually does affect children with ADHD or possibly make them lookADHD than the average child," says Dr. Wolff.
So why hasn't the FDA removed Red Dye 40 from its list of approvedfood additives?This is the statement the FDA sent WZZM after nearly twoweeks of asking for an on camera interview.
"Individual anecdotal experiences from the elimination of aparticular food item may not have been performed in a scientific mannerand that many other factors may be responsible for any observedbehavioral changes"- U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In March 2011, the FDA held a food dye hearing. The advisorycommittee listened to arguments against the use of food dyes, as well asnew research conducted on children and the effects of food dye on theirsocial behavior. In the end, the Advisory Committee to the FDA foundinsufficient evidence to support the connection between artificial foodcolorings and children with ADHD. The committee asked for more researchand is currently delaying any action.
When WZZM 13 asked where the FDA stands on artificial food dyes two years after that decision they released this statement:
"The FDA continues to be engaged in the scientific and regulatoryreview of color additives in food and their potential impact on variouspopulations, including children."- U.S. Food and Drug Administration
But that's not good enough for Laura Kitchen."I don't know why the FDAeven approves for dye, which is filled with chemicals to go into ourfood at all."
The FDA statement did not answer that question. But Red Dye 40 isclearly labeled on food ingredient lists and Laura admits it's becomingeasier to find products without it. "Almost everywhere is doing betterwith going dye-free."
Whether or not that's a signal that Americans are ready for stricter artificial food dye regulations is debatable.
Three years ago, the food regulatory body in the U.K. forcedcompanies using Red Dye 40 in their products to put a warning label onthe packaging letting parents know it could cause hyperactivity in theirchildren.
Here are some extra related links to Red Dye 40: