Does Artificial Food Coloring Contribute to ADHD in Children?

Scientific American

April 27, 2015 |By Rebecca Harrington

Benjamin Feingold initially published findings in the 1970s that suggested a link between artificial colors and hyperactive behavior. However, scientists, consumers and the government have not yet reached a consensus on the extent of this risk or the correct path to address it.

After a 2007 study in the U.K. showed that artificial colors and/or the common preservative sodium benzoate increased hyperactivity in children, the European Union started requiring food labels indicating that a product containing any one of six dyes “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” And a 2012 meta-analysis of studies co-authored by Professor Nigg concluded that color additives have an effect on hyperactive behavior in children, with a small subset showing more extreme behavior than others.

As a result of growing consumer pressure for more natural foods, Kraft recently announced Monday that it will remove artificial food coloring, notably Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 dyes, from its iconic Macaroni & Cheese product by January 2016. Contrary to lax FDA standards, Professor Weiss supports banning artificial colors until companies have evidence that they cause no harm.

According to Dr. Harold Levinson, clinical experience revealed that specific food colorings in sensitive individuals with ADHD often intensified their activity symptoms, often extremely so. Levinson recalls several patients so sensitive that they reacted poorly to yellow or orange colored pills. As a result, these additives were referred to as neurotoxins. In Levinson’s opinion, were controlled and blinded studies conducted on only those reporting and observed to be neurotoxic they would have all clearly revealed what was clinically obvious. Unfortunately, many scientific studies are performed by researchers having little clinical experience, thus hampering their proper design.

Because only a minority of ADHD children are sensitive to only specific substances, diets avoiding all possible triggers such as the Feingold diet are needlessly severe and time-consuming and make no sensitive. You just need to avoid proven triggers in the minority of ADHD shown sensitive to them.

About Dr. Harold Levinson
Formerly Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York University Medical Center, Dr. Harold Levinson is currently Director of the Levinson Medical Center for Learning Disabilities in Long Island, New York. He is a well-known neuropsychiatrist, clinical researcher and author. For more information, call 1(800)334-7323 or visit:

Image Courtesy of Antpkr/

Comments are closed.