Food dyes and behavioral issues

I have a three-year-old son who is very sensitive to red dye in his foods. In fact he is sensitive to all dyes in his foods. I have tried to find information about this but haven't been able to find anything. Is there any information on this ?

When my son has anything with dye in it he goes ballistic. On one occasion he even ran into the wall numerous times without even acting like it was affecting him. He finally fell asleep on the kitchen floor at 12:30am. I was thinking that he had lost his mind. A friend alerted me to the red dye (and any dye for that matter) and in my cupboard was food full of the stuff. I threw everything out the next day and went grocery shopping. From that day on my son has been a different child. He listens, plays well, is less aggressive and is a more "likable" child. I even like him more now myself! I've tried to find more information on the effects of dye on children.


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dyes in food are generally put there for cosmetic purposes and serve no nutritional or food safety function. By eliminating them from your son's diet you have helped him deal with his adverse reaction to them, and you have most likely switched to a more natural and wholesome diet.

It is very rare for children to have such a negative behavioral reaction to the food additive, which is generally very safe. However there are a few children who seem to be hypersensitive to it. It is also possible that younger children are more vulnerable. Certainly it does no nutritional harm to eliminate them from his diet, or any child's diet.

I would caution other parents, however, who are dealing with behavioral problems, to automatically blame the child's diet without also searching for other causes, medical or otherwise. Studies continue to try and determine if there are any causal links between food dyes and behavior. At present data doesn't support it for the majority of children.

You have determined that your son is one of the few it does, and you were lucky to find out and fix the problem so easily. For anyone else who suspects it might be a problem, a return to a diet consisting of fresh, wholesome, additive-free, minimally processed foods is the way to go.

Thank you for writing.

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