Vol. 6, No. 1, 2000 Page 1&5

ADHD: new evidence of crime link; advocacy group calls
for research on role of diet, food additives

A new report by a national consumer advocacy group calls on researchers to conduct more investigations into the link between diet and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and charges that federal agencies, medical professionals, and the food i industry are ignoring evidence that diet is a factor in the disorder.

The new report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has captured the interest of criminal justice professionals because childhood attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a risk factor for criminality, with new studies showing g g a strong relationship even in the absence of childhood conduct problems. A recent study by L. M. Babinski, for instance, followed up 230 male and 75 female subjects, and found that "both hyperactivity-impulsivity and early conduct problems independently y y, as well as jointly, predict a greater likelihood of having an arrest record for males, but not for females." Similarly, Eric Taylor and colleagues reported in 1997 (see related article, Crime Times, 1997, Vol. 3, No. 3, Page 1) that childhood hyperactivity, even when not combined with conduct problems, is a strong risk factor for later violence, social problems, academic underachievement, and defiant and disruptive behaviors.

ADHD is typically treated with Ritalin and other amphetamine-like medications, but the CSPI report argues that such drugs can have adverse effects, and that their long-term health consequences are unknown. Dietary interventions, the report states, should be considered as a first-line treatment for ADHD, particularly when combined with behavioral approaches.

CSPI researchers reviewed 23 controlled studies of the effects of diet, and in particular food dyes and additives, on the behavior of children with ADHD or other behavior problems. "Though the studies are limited due to the number of subjects, extent of d dietary changes tested, assessment techniques, and other factors," the researchers say, "17 of the 23 studies found evidence that some children's behavior significantly worsens after they consume artificial colors or certain foods, s such as milk or wheat." In addition, they say, "Limited research with such tools as electroencephalography (EEG) indicates that certain foods trigger physiological changes in sensitive individuals."

CSPI's report calls on the federal government to sponsor well-designed, well-controlled research into the effects of diet on behavior, to develop methods for identifying children most likely to be at risk for behavioral problems caused by diet, and to "de evelop techniques to reduce the impact of foods on children's behavior." In particular, CSPI recommends that the government consider banning synthetic dyes in products widely consumed by children, including cupcakes, candies, sugary breakfast cereals, vit tamin pills, drugs, and toothpaste. The use of such dyes, the report notes, has increased four-fold in the past four decades.

"Denying that food ingredients can exacerbate ADHD or other behavioral effects reflects ignorance of the scientific research," the report concludes, "and ignoring that research jeopardizes children's well-being.... Parents, physicians, teachers, and schoo ol officials need to know that some children benefit from avoiding certain additives and foods, and it makes sense to remove from children's diets unnecessary contributors to behavioral problems."


"Diet, ADHD, and Behavior: A Quarter-Century Review," Michael F. Jacobson and David Schardt, Center for Science in the Public Interest, September 1999. Copies of this report are available for $8 each (including postage and handling) from CSPI-Behavior, Su uite 300, 1875 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, DC 20009. A separate report, "A Parent's Guide to Diet, ADHD and Behavior," is available for $1.50 per copy. The reports also can be accessed at www.cspinet.org.


"Childhood conduct problems, hyperactivity-impulsivity, and inattention as predictors of adult criminal activity," L. M. Babinski, C. S. Hartsough, and N. M. Lambert, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Vol. 40, No. 3, March 1999, pp. 347-3 355. Address: L. M. Babinski, School of Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.

Related Articles: [2000, Vol. 6] [2002, Vol. 8]

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