Food additives linked to child aggression

By Susie O'Brien
Herald Sun
Apr. 08, 2007

POPULAR food additives, preservatives and colours make children aggressive and disruptive, a ground-breaking experiment has found.

A New South Wales school that went additive-free for two weeks reported significant behaviour changes in students.

Sue Dengate, who runs the Food Intolerance Network and organised the project at Palmers Island Primary School, said the results were surprising.

"It was amazing. The children were more co-operative, the siblings stopped fighting and there were more harmonious families," Ms Dengate said.

Principal Andrew Bennett said that the changes became obvious in three or four days.

"We found difficult children created much less of a disturbance," Mr Bennett said.

The school provided additive-free breakfasts for the children and gave parents booklets containing suggestions for lunch and dinners.

Evidence is mounting internationally about the effects of a dangerous cocktail of chemicals fed to children daily.

What's in this Stuff?, by Pat Thomas, reports that more than 10,000 chemicals are added to food these day.

The average American consumes 2.4kg of additives a year - and nutritionists say Australia is not far behind.

Even supposedly healthy food such as bread, butter and dried fruit are now understood to cause aggression, hyperactivity and depression in children.

A new Nutrition Australia report notes children in daycare who eat highly processed food are more likely to injure others in the playground, according to the staff who care for them.

And staff also find children who come to daycare on an empty stomach are more likely to be their victims.

"Staff identified that children with poorer food choices ... were more likely to be the children who were impulsive and display behaviours which could cause injury to other children," Nutrition Australia spokeswoman Aloysa Hourigan said.

This included children who regularly ate foods with preservatives, additives and colours.

Pediatrician Heidi Webster said food intolerances might exacerbate the behaviour of some children with attention deficit disorders and autism.

"Trialling the efficacy of dietary change can ... improve the quality of life for the children that suffer with ADHD and autism," Ms Webster said.

The Victorian Education Department has recently banned high-sugar soft drinks in school canteens and vending machines.

But Ms Dengate said that more needed to be done to address the amount of additives in food available in schools.

Collingwood College is doing its best to help students eat healthily.

Each week children spend time in the school's organic garden growing fresh food that they then cook up into delicious, nutritious food.

Ms Dengate will be in Victoria giving talks about food and children's behaviour during May.

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