How to Make Preservatives in Food and Child Behavior Skip

Will all the mystery ingredients on food labels, you likely wonder if some of these chemical names are affecting your child’s behavior — specifically, all the preservatives found in crackers, cookies and pretty much anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Well, experts can’t agree on preservatives and their behavior, but there are plenty of theories to go around. It all boils down to feeding a healthy diet to your child and going with your parental instincts.

Research

The main study for preservatives and child behavior was published in The Lancet, a British Medical Journal, in 2007. The study showed the children who had increased amounts of chemical food coloring and preservatives in their diet also had behavioral problems. Specifically, the study recorded more temper tantrums, hyperactivity, ADHD symptoms and generally bad behavior. Not something a mother wants to see in her kids — right?

The Controversy

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that it is possible for preservatives to affect behavior, but they feel the evidence is weak. The AAP states, “The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend special diets for treating hyperactivity.” However, the AAP also says that it does not hurt to eliminate these foods from the diet if the parents are concerned. Harvard Medical School has the same opinion, stating “the jury is out” on their website. They also say that a “sensible” diet of whole food like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy protein is recommended for all children and will help limit the amount of preservatives in a child’s diet.

What to Look For

You may feel like you need a science degree to read labels, but it is important to know what is in your child’s food. Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene recommends avoiding preservatives — common ones to look for are butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), sodium nitrate and sodium benzoate
. While not preservatives, the study also talked about food dye and how it can affect children’s behavior. Food dye starts with FD&C, like FD&C Blue 1, but dyes also have common names, like “Brilliant Blue.”

Allergies

If you suspect your child is having an allergic reaction to food preservatives, this is not likely the case, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your child may be more sensitive to food preservatives, but this doesn’t mean he is allergic. “While some people may be sensitive to certain food additives, it is rare to be allergic to them,” according to the AAP. Reactions to food additives are due to their chemical nature.

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