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Leesville Daily Leader - Leesville, LA
  • Joan Endyke: Make a healthier Easter basket by ditching the food dyes

  • Some goodies in Easter baskets could drive children to be unfocused, impulsive and behave poorly, according to recent research, and the culprit is not sugar but specific food additives.

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  • Some goodies in Easter baskets could drive children to be unfocused, impulsive and behave poorly, according to recent research, and the culprit is not sugar but specific food additives.
    Yet most parents are unaware of harmful chemicals lurking in cute speckled eggs, color-coated almonds and other candy because the Food and Drug Administration has failed to require food-label warnings, like those recently instituted in Europe.
    Synthetic food dyes and other food additives can alter the functioning of children’s brains and neurological systems and cause problems, such as poor reading and writing and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. With school testing, like MCAS, in process, parents and grandparents should rethink Easter basket selections.
    A study published in the British medical journal The Lancet found synthetic food dyes can trigger hyperactivity and inattention in all children, not just those with ADHD. The lead researcher of the study likened these food additives to how lead affects IQ in children. This prompted the UK to ban these substances in foods and the European Union to require a warning on food labels, stating the item ‘may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.’
    Researchers from Columbia University and Harvard Medical School agree; there is enough research to conclude synthetic food dyes are linked with hyperactivity, according to the Feingold Association.
    In the United States, most Easter candy –– neon-yellow chicks, vivid jelly beans, lollipops and the like –– are made with petroleum (crude oil)-based artificial food colors, many of which are produced in Chinese refineries. In the UK, the same candies are made with natural coloring.
    Americans consume almost three times the amount of synthetic food dyes as they did in the 1980s, and some experts believe this strongly correlates with the rise in ADHD, now affecting an estimated 8.6 percent of children in the country.
    Another problem with synthetic food dyes is cancer. Red No. 3 is known to cause cancer, and three other dyes (Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6) are contaminated with low levels of cancer-causing compounds, such as benzidine, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They petitioned the FDA to require food manufacturers to label whether colorings are artificial or natural, but the request was denied.
    For a healthier Easter basket:
    Read the ingredient list on food labels and avoid candy containing synthetic dyes –– basically, any color with a number beside it: Blue No. 1, Blue No. 2, Yellow No. 5, Yellow No. 6, Red No. 3, Red No. 40 and Green No. 3.
    Buy jellybeans, chocolate and other candies made with natural food colors and real vanilla. These products are usually available in natural stores, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, and also can be purchased online at naturalcandystore.com
    Page 2 of 2 - Think outside of the (candy) box and fill the basket with jump ropes, balls, books, art supplies, garden seeds, stuffed animals and other non-food items.
    The Feingold Association also recommends not buying products with artificial vanilla flavor (vanillin) or and these three preservatives: BHA, BHT and TBHQ, which already removed from most food for children in the UK. The preservatives are made from petroleum and vanillin.
    For more information, go to feingold.org/ and cspinet.org/fooddyes/
    Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and nutrition. Send your questions to her at www.wickedgoodhealth.com. This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor before changing your diet.
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