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ADHD and ADD Caused by Food Allergies

adhd add food allergies coloring flavorWith almost two million children estimated at having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD), many questions arise as to possible reasons for this disorder and how it can be managed. Studies have been conducted to see if having a food allergy or food sensitivity may possibly contribute to ADHD/ADD symptoms.

Does Food Allergy or Food Sensitivities Cause ADHD/ADD Symptoms

In September 2007, a study was released indicating food additives do increase the level of hyperactivity among children at least until middle childhood. Jim Stevenson, professor of psychology at the University of Southampton, led the research team and found that these food additives increased behaviors of inattention, impulsivity and overactivity.

Since 2007, numerous other studies have been completed, though they are still controversial in their findings. Another study done at the Cornell Medical Center in New York found that 73% of children in the study responded favorably to a multiple item elimination diet. Many of the children reacted to specific foods, dyes and preservatives. The final conclusion was that dietary factors may be a factor for children suffering from ADHD/ADD.

What Types of Food Allergy or Food Sensitivities Can Cause ADHD/ADD Symptoms

Although studies are still inconclusive, it's suggested that parents eliminate some common food additives in their child's diet to see if any noticeable improvement occurs.

Common food additives that may increase hyperactivity include:

  • sodium benzoate
  • FD&C # 6 (sunset yellow); found in many beverages, candy and other sweets. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), requires all labeling to indicate if FD&C # 5 is used.
  • FD&C # 10 (quinoline yellow)
  • FD&C # 5(tartrazine)
  • FD&D # 40 (allura red)
If a processed food is brightly colored, it is a good indicator that an FD&C is present. Many products are now confirming they "contain no artificial colorings or flavorings."

Controlling ADHD/ADD Symptoms with Healthier Foods and Diet

Speaking with a doctor or dietary specialist can aid in creating a balanced and healthy diet for a child who suffers from ADHD/ADD. Eliminating some types of foods and adding others is a strategy offered by the Mayo Clinic when creating a diet for children ADHD/ADD.

Dietary considerations for kids with ADHD/ADD include the following:

  • Limit sugary foods as much as possible.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Increase omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Increase fresh fruits, vegetables and grains.
Conclusive results are not yet available to link whether or not ADHD/ADD symptoms are caused or increased due to food allergies or food sensitivities. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can modify their diets to exclude common food dyes and preservatives to see if there are any noticeable behavior improvements occur. Increasing good foods like omega-3 fatty acids and fresh fruits are also recommended to help improve ADHD/ADD symptoms.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.


ADHD Child. "ADHD Statistics" (accessed September 15, 2010)

The New York Times. " Some Food Additives Raise Hyperactivity, Study Finds" (accessed September 15, 2010)

U.S National Library of Medicine. "Foods and additives are common causes of the attention deficity hyperactive disorder in children" (accessed September 15, 2010)

Mayo Clinic. "Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children" (accessed September 15, 2010)

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