Food Additives, Hyperactivity, and Common Sense




A BMJ editorial, Food additives and hyperactivity, discusses the recent attention that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been giving to the possible link between food additives and childhood hyperactivity. Apparently the EFSA had to re-evaluate studies regarding this possible connection after publishing an opinion that suggested that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest a correlation between additives and hyperactivity.

The editorial mentions various treatment options for hyperactivity. Apparently there is substantial evidence backing up two common therapies for this problem: drugs and dietary modification. But there is little evidence to justify treating this problem with behavioral therapy, even though this is a common procedure.

It is interesting to note that there is quite a bit of focus on both drug and behavioral therapies. But Andrew Kemp, the author, notes that it would be wise to eliminate various additives that have been shown to affect the behavior of children. After all, even though the evidence may not be staggering, there is still indeed evidence that shows this.

It is ironic to me that Kemp even needs to suggest this; it sounds like this “advice” is common sense. I know that many people treat various aliments with more natural approaches such as dietary changes, as we’ve discussed here, or with other changes such as exercise, meditation, light-therapy, etc. The list is endless. And honestly I’m quite envious of people who have successfully been able to do this well.

I believe that a good number of people (myself included) have strayed from the common sense approach to treating physical and emotional ailments. We’ve relied on drugs and other “easy” methods to the point that it seems extreme to try other, gentler methods.

Now be clear. I am not saying that people shouldn’t take drugs or are lazy if they do. That’s not my point and certainly not even my implication. Therapeutic drugs have a place in our treatment of illnesses just as yoga and sugar-free diets do. And taking drugs, while not void of all complications or issues, is usually more straight-forward than other therapies. (Our society and western viewpoint of illness is partially responsible for this but that’s another topic.) And I know that I too, look to those educated in these matters, to help me choose the best treatment option. And natural solutions, while agreed that they may be viable, are not usually the course of action relied upon.

While I hope that our health care system eventually becomes more well-rounded, I understand that doctors will continue to rely on the regulated, scientific-based methods for years to come. And that’s fine. In fact, I understand why they would be hesitant to suggest something that isn’t based on scientific evidence or that isn’t governed by a regulatory system. That’s why I think it’s up to us as patients to take a second to consider common sense solutions to our everyday health problems. Maybe they will help, maybe not. But at least we’ll be adding balance to our somewhat narrow-minded western viewpoint of medicine.

Reference

Kemp, A. (2008). Food additives and hyperactivity. BMJ, 336(7654), 1144-1144. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.39582.375336.BE

J. R. White

J. R. White is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She has over five years of experience in education and pedagogy.
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