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Quest Vitamins LTD,
8 Venture Way,
Aston Science Park,
B7 4AP.

Tel: 0121 359 0056
Fax: 0121 359 0313
Registered in England No. 2530437

Issue 76

Characteristics of ADHD

The Relationship between Food Additives
and ADHD

Understanding E numbers

Attitudes to Food Additives

ADHD and families

Lifestyle, diet and supplements



Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common condition mainly
affecting children and young people between the ages of 5 - 18, after that age,
the condition is termed as residual. The condition demands a lot of time and
knowledge from everyone, including parents and schools through to the medical
professionals. Although the condition was identified about 100 years ago, it
is only in the past decade that some information has been clarified. ADHD comprises
a range of behavioural problems including inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity.
Diagnosis and treatment of the disorder is difficult because of the biological
basis is largely unknown.

Characteristics of ADHD

Learning and behaviour difficulties have been associated with ADHD. The characteristics
of ADHD include:

" Hyperactivity

" Emotional instability

" Disorders of attention - easily distracted, short attention span, poor
concentration, not listening

" Impulsive behaviour

" Disorders of memory and thinking

" Specific learning disabilities - often associated with inflammation in
the ear, nutrient deficiency and heavy metals

" Speech and learning disorders

ADHD appears to be associated with food-additives and other food issues. While
attention deficit disorder (ADD) without the hyperactive element is generally
associated with heavy metals.

The Relationship between Food Additives and ADHD

There is a close relationship between additives in food (mostly colourings)
and ADHD. The use of food additives has grown throughout the years, from early
necessary methods of food preservation through to modern food production methods.
The most reactive of all colourings is the yellow azo dye tartrazine (E120);
its use is banned in some countries. Tartrazine is commonly used to colour fruit
squash, cordial and fizzy drinks; ice cream and lollies; sweets; instant puddings;
cake mixes; packet convenience foods; and a host of other things including the
shells of medicinal capsules. It is not totally understood how tartrazine works
in the body to cause the reactions that it is associated with.

One of the carotenes could provide a natural, although more expensive option,
however the colour would not be as vibrant as tartrazine.

Another good example are natural strawberry products such as jams, jellies
or tinned strawberries with no added colouring are insipid to look at, so instead
of using a natural, subtle red; a more strident azo dye for example Ponceau
4R may be used. If a child with ADHD is given tinned strawberries or some jelly
to eat at a party, it is likely that the colours or flavourings in the food
could set off a period of hyperactive behaviour.

Understanding E numbers

The E numbers are a listing of food additives. It includes natural and artificial
colours, preservatives, antioxidants, emulsifiers, stabilisers, flavourings,
gelling agents, bulking agents and texturisers. Some additives are from natural
sources, while others may be synthesized or produced artificially. The list
of additives is periodically reviewed and some are discontinued if enough evidence
supports this. However, not all countries ban the same additives. It is wise
to become familiar with any that cause problems and check all food labels thoroughly.

Attitudes to Food Additives

The attitude of people to food, nutrition and child behaviour varies with experience.
Some adults notice their own behaviour changes slightly after consuming particular
foods or drinks. Some parents are aware of a connection between sugar consumption
and the behaviour of children, but others are confused and some are behaviour
blackmailed regularly into buying more sweets and coloured treats for their
children when out shopping! Studies show that girls behaviour improves more
than boys when sugar is restricted.

To determine the effect of nutrition on behaviour, various studies have been
carried out using school-age children, prisoners and other institutionalised
groups. Good nutrition invariably equals better behaviour.

ADHD and families

A diagnosis of ADHD should be made by those who specialise in this field, the
symptoms are complex and sometimes many of the individual symptoms appear in
normal, healthy children during their childhood, for example, great creativity
or high energy levels are perfectly normal in lots of children, but can also
be symptoms of ADHD (4).

Lifestyle, diet and supplements

Awareness of ADHD should begin in pregnancy, as women who smoke while they are
expecting a baby have a greater chance of the child developing ADHD. Generally
speaking, the younger the child, the speedier and better the response and a
change in diet alone will be sufficient to see a great improvement in the behaviour
of a hyperactive child. Sometimes, dairy products may be a problem for the hyperactive
child. The only way to find out which foods the child is allergic to is to have
him or her tested for a range of foods or to remove the suspect foods from the

Women can safely commence omega-3 supplementation in early pregnancy to allow
the full benefits to be incorporated into the body. Pregnant women should consider
the intake of omega-3 oils and evening primrose oil throughout pregnancy in
order to possibly prevent preterm delivery, promote an easier birth, assist
the babys brain development and benefit eye health. Benefits to the mother
may include prevention of postnatal depression and the comfort of knowing that
she is giving her baby a healthy start in life.

Dr Benjamin Feingold, M.D. has developed a diet that eliminates salicylates,
synthetic additives, dyes and chemicals.

Salicylates are the chemicals similar to aspirin found naturally in a variety
of foods including berries and dried fruits, liquorice, peppermint, with lesser
amounts in nuts and seeds. Salicylic acid esters are used to flavour foods such
as cake mixes, puddings, ice cream, soft drinks and chewing gum. Synthetic additives,
dyes and chemicals are commonly added to processed foods. Tartrazine may have
detrimental effects on those who are sensitive to salicylates.

Research has noted that the inclusion of the essential omega 3 and 6 fatty
acids (EFAs) in the diet has helped improve brain development and behavioural
problems in children with ADH.

Dr Michael Crawford recommends at least one portion of oily fish a week for
everyone. This is especially important for children, as the brain continues
to grow until the age of two and the developmental processes are not finished
until the age of about five years. From then on there needs to be a regular
supply of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid found in fish oils) to keep the brain cell
membranes in good condition.

Low levels of magnesium have also been associated with ADHD. Studies have shown
significant decreases in hyperactive behaviour in children with ADHD.

Vitamin B6 deficiency has been detected in some children suffering ADHD. Studies
showed improvement in some of the subjects in the research. However, this should
only be undertaken with the guidance of a nutritionally qualified medical practitioner.

Zinc is an important co-factor in the metabolism of essential fatty acids (EFAs).
Zinc is found in oysters, meat, offal and seeds, particularly pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin seeds can be finely ground and mixed with yogurt if they are unpalatable
whole; or added to muesli and soaked overnight before eating for breakfast.
For a child, oysters are probably out of the question, however, the consumption
of unprocessed, unadulterated, organically produced meat two or three times
a week may be encouraged.

Giving hyperactive children multinutrient supplements can be very helpful,
in addition to making changes in their diet. Almost all hyperactive children
tested are found to be low in zinc and magnesium and sometimes children have
been found to have unusually high amounts of aluminium and lead (hair analysis
was used). This is particularly interesting because zinc and magnesium are minerals
needed to metabolize essential fatty acids.


Several studies have identified abnormalities in membrane fatty acids in some
subjects with ADHD, and some success has been reported using lipid therapies.
The data suggests that some patients with ADHD have higher rates of oxidative
breakdown of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Such a biochemical
abnormality may be the underlying cause of previously observed fatty acid deficiencies,
as well as providing further rationale for the use of antioxidant and/or lipid
supplementation therapy in the treatment of ADHD.

Children with ADHD should spend time outside enjoying nature is a theory
put forward by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
A significant reduction of symptoms was experienced by the 5-18 year olds who
took part in a nationwide study.

Findings indicated that exposure to an ordinary natural environment during after
school and weekend activities may be widely effective in reducing attention
deficit symptoms in children.

Iron deficiency has been associated with ADHD. In research carried out in France
a study evaluating iron deficiency in children with ADHD and iron deficiency
in an age and sex-matched group it was found that low iron stores contribute
to ADHD, and that ADHD children may benefit from iron supplementation (under
the care of a qualified medical specialist).

Research has found that the sulphydryl compounds in garlic bind to heavy metals,
rendering them harmless to the body. These compounds have particular protective
effects against lead, mercury and cadmium. Aged garlic extract is rich in sulphydryl
compounds, it is especially protective against heavy metal pollution.

Zinc is an important co-factor in the metabolism of EFAs, prostaglandins and
indirectly affects dopamine metabolism, believed intimately involved in ADHD.
Research using evening primrose oil used groups of subjects who were zinc-adequate/borderline/deficient.
The result indicated that benefits were experienced by the first two groups.

Support groups exist all over the UK to help parents and schools understand
and manage children and young people with ADHD. Further information is available
on the internet the Hyperactive Childrens Support Group at
For local groups, the local medical centre or library may have information on
the notice board.

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