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Information>Nutrition Newsroom
Food additives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year-old and8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomized,ouble-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.

Background  

We undertook a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover trial to test whether intake of artificial food colour and additives (AFCA) affected childhood behaviour.  

 

Methods

 153 3-year-old and 144 8/9-year-old children were included in the study. The challenge drink contained sodium benzoate and one of two AFCA mixes (A or B) or a placebo mix. The main outcome measure was a global hyperactivity aggregate (GHA), based on aggregated z-scores of observed behaviours and ratings by teachers and parents, plus, for 8/9-year-old children, a computerised test of attention. This clinical trial is registered with Current Controlled Trials (registration number ISRCTN74481308). Analysis was per protocol. 

 

Findings

16 3-year-old children and 14 8/9-year-old children did not complete the study, for reasons unrelated to childhood behaviour. Mix A had a significantly adverse effect compared with placebo in GHA for all 3-year-old children (effect size 020 [95% CI 001–039], p=0044) but not mix B versus placebo. This result persisted when analysis was restricted to 3-year-old children who consumed more than 85% of juice and had no missing data (032 [005–060], p=002). 8/9-year-old children showed a significantly adverse effect when given mix A (012 [002–023], p=0023) or mix B (017 [007–028], p=0001) when analysis was restricted to those children consuming at least 85% of drinks with no missing data. 

 

Interpretation

Artificial colours or a sodium benzoate preservative (or both) in the diet result in increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population. 

 

Reference:

l   McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, et al. Food additives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet; 2007: 370:9598,1560-1567.

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