Let's say- hypothetically- that you're at the grocery store with your 5 year old, and they're running through the aisles and throwing tantrums. Or, maybe the teacher calls because your child has been unfocused and not "staying on task." Now, assume that a friend- or the teacher- inquires about the behavior and asks "what did your child eat today?" Offended? If you're from the United States, the answer is most-likely yes.
We can debate the "right" age for kids to get a phone.
We can discuss the affects of television/gaming violence on kids.
But, yet, the topic of how diet affects behavior often results in argument.
I'm glad, though, that years ago I listened instead of getting offended.
My kids grew up the youngest in a group of "backyard friends." There were daily games of baseball, 500, and various made up relays. Though my son was the youngest, he held his own keeping up with the 8-9 year olds.
One afternoon my neighbor and I were watching the kids play and witnessed my son become a kid we've never seen: aggressive, destructive...completely out of control. I was horrified and baffled. What the hell happened to my kid.
Granted he'd had his share of tantrums, but this was a level I'd never seen (or wanted to see again). Turns out, a fun afternoon with grandma and grandpa had led to his first can of Hawaiian Punch.
The next day, my neighbor asked if I had ever read about the side effects of artificial colors.
Not really. I mean, we ate pretty healthy. As far as I was concerned I really only used "artificial colors" a few times a year making frosting.
And then I googled artificial colors.
At the time (about 10 years ago), Red #40, Yellow #5, and Blue #2 showed links to aggression, mood swings, hyperactivity, and lack of concentration. Yikes. But, really, I didn't keep red pop in the house, and we didn't eat much candy, how big of a deal could it be? So I checked my kitchen.
Holy shit. They were in everything: yogurt, ketchup, cereal, mustard, salad dressing, relish, ice cream, even our toothpaste. What?!!
Thus began a huge shift in our home. Artificial colors (red #40 especially) were no longer coming into my kitchen.
Two little ones asking for their "favorite" cereals at the store wasn't always fun, so I put them to work reading the labels- "sure, you can get that cereal/ice cream/yogurt...as long as it doesn't say #40, #5, or #2 in the ingredients."
A decade later I'm still fascinated, and still researching, the affects of diet on behavior and health. Sadly, today even more products contain artificial colors: from breads to snacks to beverages to the fish counter- virtually every aisle. Ironically, artificial colors are usually absent from the same products overseas.
As parents we want to believe we're always doing what's best for our kids. How dare someone question their diet- food is a basic necessity. If we aren't getting that right, what the hell else are we doing wrong? But, I think we're offended at the wrong thing.
Questioning how one's diet affects behavior isn't offensive, the fact that companies put this crap in anyone's food (especially food targeted to kids) is offensive.
Artificial Colors have been linked to ADD, cognitive disorders, hyperactivity, hives, allergies, eczema, behavioral disorders, and cancer.
How can this be? The FDA says they're safe, right?
In "Chemicals and Health" through John Hopkins University, they stressed Dose Determines Toxicity.
Forget artificial colors for a minute and lets think about alcohol (wahoo!).
I enjoy a little whiskey now and then. While every alcohol has a "standard" portion size, 1.5 oz is a typical pour.
As some of us know (cough cough), on any given day we may be more- or less- tolerant of our alcohol based on how much we've eaten, slept, the temperature outside...any number of variables. Certainly our age, weight, and build all play a role too.
1.5 oz of whiskey probably won't affect me dramatically, and I'd still be in the legal limits to drive. But...
let's put that "standard" serving in my morning cereal...and mid-morning yogurt...maybe the condiments on my sandwich...in my ice cream for dessert...and then my toothpaste too.
Dose determines toxicity.
Now imagine a 5 year old consuming the same.
While artificial colors may be "safe" in small doses, we aren't subjected to "small doses" anymore. And, we have to question the affect of the larger doses we- and especially our kids- are exposed to daily.
Just as every adult doesn't react the same to alcohol, every person doesn't react the same to artificial colors. While they may not cause dramatic behavior changes, they certainly aren't doing our body any favors.
And, what if behavior, allergies, or skin conditions could be eliminated by avoiding artificial colors. Should we really be offended by the suggestion? While the number of products with artificial colors has grown, so has the number without. These alternate products generally cost the same, and it just takes a quick second to check the label.
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