Inspired by one of our favorite television shows, Allergy Myth Busters looks at a number of popularly held beliefs about allergy. But are these myths just urban legends or are they true?
Food Allergy causes ADHD.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) manifests in early childhood as a behavioral disorder characterized by hyperactivity, impulsivity and/or inattention and affects cognitive, emotional and social functioning.
What does science say?
Feingold reported that children with learning difficulties and behavioral problems improved on a diet eliminating artificial colors, preservatives, and fruits and vegetables containing salicylates.
So is the myth busted or true?
Subsequent studies did not confirm this observation. In some children, food additives may aggravate hyperactivity, due to non-IgE-mediated histamine release and delayed degradation of histamine resulting in itching. Such effects, however, are not true food allergies but are food intolerances. As such, this type of adverse effect cannot be diagnosed by food allergy testing either by skin testing or by blood work. In March 2011, the Food Advisory Committee of the US Food and Drug Administration determined that existing data do not support a causal link between consumption of color additives and hyperactivity or other problematic behaviors in children.
Food sensitivity (allergy or intolerance) may be present in some children with ADHD but generally do not impact behavior to a clinically significant level. A meta-analysis of 23 studies eliminating dietary sugar followed by challenges with sugar did not support a link between sugar intake and hyperactivity, attention span or cognitive function in most children. An elimination diet, limited to turkey, lamb, rice, potato, banana, apple, pear, a few vegetables, water, salt and pepper, did not improve symptoms more than a placebo diet.
Food sensitivity should be looked for, but plays no role in the majority of cases of ADHD. If considering dietary changes, it is always advisable to discuss it with your doctor and/or a nutritionist.
Feingold BF. Hyperkinesis and learning disabilities linked to artificial food flavours and colours. Am J Nurse 1975; 75:797-803.
Quick Minutes: Food Advisory Committee Meeting March 30-31, 2011.
Wolraich ML, Wilson DB, White JW. JAMA 1995; 274(20):1617.
Schmidt MH, et. al. Does oligoantigenic diet influence hyperactive/conduct-disordered children—a controlled trial. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 1997; 6(2):88.