ADHD diet: Do food additives cause hyperactivity?

content provided by

ADHD diet: Do food additives cause hyperactivity?


What does the research say about the relationship between food additives and ADHD?

No name
No state given


There's no evidence that food additives cause attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but some studies show that certain food colorings and preservatives may increase hyperactive behavior in some children. Because several studies have looked at a combination of food additives and their possible effects on hyperactivity and ADHD, it isn't clear which additives might affect behavior.

Food additives that may increase hyperactive behavior include:

  • Sodium benzoate
  • FD&C Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow)
  • D&C Yellow No. 10 (quinoline yellow)
  • FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine)
  • FD&C Red No.40 (allura red)

The British government has requested that food manufacturers remove most artificial food dyes from their products. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that FD&C Yellow No. 5 be clearly labeled on food packaging along with other ingredients. But many colorings and food additives don't require labeling. The FDA's food advisory committee has determined that studies to date have not proved a link between food colorings and hyperactive behavior. More research is needed regarding whether limiting certain foods helps prevent hyperactivity and ADHD symptoms.

Talk with your child's doctor about the pros and cons of trying an elimination diet to see if it makes a difference. Make sure your doctor or a dietitian helps supervise the diet plan, however. A diet that eliminates too many foods can be unhealthy because it may lack necessary vitamins and nutrients.

The approach for your child's overall health and nutrition is a diet that limits sugary and processed foods and is rich in fruits; vegetables; grains; and healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseed and other foods.

Last Updated: 2011-10-12
© 1998-2016 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Terms and conditions of use


Bookmark and Share   E-Mail Page   Printer Friendly Version