Artificial Food Coloring and ADHD

Should foods with dyes have warning labels? Parents concerned about ADHD think so. Here’s a brief look at the facts surrounding artificial dyes and ADHD.

Many people will be familiar with the key symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a childhood disorder marked by a combination of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Almost as many people will think they know what causes it, but unfortunately, ADHD has no clear cause. While evidence exists that genes play a large part in the development of ADHD, researchers continue to look at other possibilities, one being food additives.

In a move that dismayed many concerned parents and watchdog groups, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel ruled 8-6 that foods containing dyes don’t need warning labels. In its post “FDA panel delays action on dyes used in foods,” BabyCenter reports that the FDA isn’t required to follow recommendations made by advisory panels, but usually does so. The reason for the panel’s decision is based on its belief that there isn’t enough evidence to definitively link food dyes to ADHD.

Still, many parents worry that food dyes aggravate ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity. Studies have not yet been able to sort out whether just one dye is to blame, or if a combination of artificial colorings is at fault. Huffington Post notes that the European Union has already placed warning labels on foods containing six dyes it feels may adversely affect kids (see the gallery, 9 Food Additives Possibly Linked To ADHD). The suspect dyes include Blue No. 1, found in some Yoplait products; Red No. 40, found in Apple Jacks; and Yellow No. 5, which can be found in Eggo Waffles.

The bottom line: Scientists still aren’t sure what causes ADHD, and more research is needed on the possible connection between food dyes and the disorder.

Visit to read more: “FDA panel delays action on dyes used in foods.”

Also see: 3 Things You Should Know About Food Colorings

Sources:, National Institute of Mental Health, Huffington Post

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest