food additives

Recently there has been a lot of media attention on food additives and how they affect mood. Food additives are used to preserve, colour and flavour foods. Some are harmless, in fact some are even beneficial.

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is used to preserve food and lecithin, which is involved in fat metabolism and the conduction of nerve impulses, is used as an emulsifier. Many however are not only harmful but some are actually carcinogenic, i.e. promote cancer. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) conducted a study into people’s diets and found that Australian pre-schoolers are consuming almost double the amount of preservatives and additives than the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends. These are linked with asthma, eczema, hay fever and other allergic disorders and behavioural disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Irish kids have a similar diet.

Interestingly, there are two types of attention deficit disorder.

1. One is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

2. The other is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADD is more associated with mental dullness and learning difficulties and may be similar to mild autism. Although parents have been reporting a connection between autism and diet for decades, there is now a growing body of evidence that shows that certain foods seem to be affecting the developing brains of some children. Rather than being due to allergies, though, this condition is associated with an inability of these children to digest certain proteins. Researchers have found peptides (breakdown products of proteins) with opiate activity in the urine of a high percentage of autistic children. These natural opiates are like the drug ,morphine, which affect brain function. The two main offenders are gluten (the protein in wheat, oats, rye and barley) and casein (milk protein.) Does you child with mild autism or ADD eat a lot of food high in gluten and casein?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is related to poor attention span and climbing the walls.

The following information is more related to hyperactivity. This type is more associated with food allergy.

The following are the major offenders;


The study found that the daily intake of benzoates for pre-schoolers aged 2-5 was 40 per cent above the acceptable intake for boys and 20 per cent above the world levels for girls. The major foods containing benzoates (or additive 210-219 particularly 211) are cordial, soft drinks, fruit and vegetable juices, sauces and toppings, dairy and fat based desserts, ice creams and jams. Benzine is a well-known carcinogen linked with leukaemia.


Sulphite levels for boys aged 2-5 were 80 per cent over the acceptable daily intake. Sulphites have been linked to asthma and skin rashes. The most common foods containing sulphites are sausages, cordial, red wine and preserved fruit such as sultanas, dried apricots etc. Sulphites can be found in minced meats. Sulphur dioxide, in particular sulphites 220- 227 have been shown to induce asthma.


Avoid food colourings especially tartrazine 102 a yellow food dye and related compounds 103-155 excluding 120, 140, 141, 150, 153 and including 180.Tartrazine promotes leukotrienes which worsen allergy and asthma symptoms. Some asthma medications contain tartrazine. Consult your doctor. Please take the paper with you when you visit the supermarket or better still avoid processed foods. Kids don’t need sweets and crisps in their lunch boxes. Remember, if you love them don’t feed them junk. Hyperactive Children's Support Group (HACSG) recommends avoidance of many other additives as these substances may cause allergic reactions.

Safe herbal Medicines and supplements for children

Calcium & Magnesium has a calming affect. Essential Fatty acids help maintain eye and brain function.

Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) is a precursor to choline, a B-vitamin, and works to enhance levels of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter. This aids concentration and may produce antidepressant effects.

Gamma-amino-butyric Acid (GABA) is a natural calming and anti-epileptic agent in the brain that is manufactured from the amino acid glutamine and glucose. It calms the body without side effects or danger of addiction. Both may be prescribed professionally.

Multivitamin and mineral complexes provides all the necessary nutrients the body needs.

Vitamin B Complex is needed for proper brain function and digestion.

Valerian root and hops flowers are among the few remedies that have a calming effect and can be prescribed by a herbalist.

On a final note, I can’t help thinking that attention deficit disorder must have something to do with lack of attention. Discipline is the hardest part of parenting. It is a lot easier to bribe children or ignore them, but that will not raise a responsible adult. 

For further details contact Carina: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.