MSG and Food Colorings: Beware!

On March 12, 2011, I was the keynote speaker at the Cedar Grove School health fair in Ashburn, Virginia.  I presented “Food for Thought Part I,” which describes the effects of food additives on children’s ability to learn.  Did you know that food colors  in animal studies prevent the neurotransmitter dopamine from activating neurons?  Did you know that glutamate is an excitotoxin, meaning that it literally excites neurons to death, leaving a lesion (a hole) in their place?  Parents in the audience were shocked to learn that glutamate is hidden in many common food ingredients, such as casein, soy protein, and yeast.  For a list of these MSG aliases and other resources for MSG and additives, see the downloadable documents on my Resources page.

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FDA Will Discuss Synthetic Food Colorings and Children’s Behavior

Great news on synthetic food colorings!  The FDA has finally agreed to “discuss” the issue of their link to children’s behavior disorders.

Those who have heard my “Food for Thought” presentations will recall that synthetic food colorings have been linked with increase of hyperactivity in ALL children, according to a study of about 300 kids, published in the premier medical journal Lancet back in 2007. (Other studies have also shown this link, but this article was the first to be published in a top medical journal.)

The London Daily Mail immediately launched a media campaign to publicize this finding, with fantastic results–for Europeans.  The British Food Standards Agency (parallel to our FDA) requested that manufacturers voluntarily remove synthetic food colorings.  British supermarkets reformulated their brands to eliminate artificial colorings.  Major candy makers such as Mars and Cadbury reformulated their products for the European market.  In December of 2008 the European Parliament voted in a labeling law requiring warning labels on products containing artificial colorings: “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” The law became fully effective in July of 2010.

The end result is that European children now can eat colored sweets without synthetic colorings, whereas American kids are consuming these substances.  Note  the difference between the US and UK versions of Kellogg’s cereal bars.

Kelloggs Nutri-Grain boxes

[Photo courtesy of the Feingold Association.]

In the United States, the scant media coverage of the Lancet study merely suggested that parents of ADHD kids exercise caution in giving their children these colorings.     The American Academy of Pediatrics newsletter in October of 2008 recommended that removal of food additives should be part of any treatment plan for ADHD.   The editors admitted that this recommendation reversed the Academy’s prior policy, which was that additives have no bearing on ADHD.

It is now 2 years after the Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation and 3 years after the Lancet article’s publication.   The FDA announced on November 24 that the Food Advisory Committee will meet  March 30-31, 2011, in Silver Spring, Maryland, to “discuss whether available relevant data demonstrates a link between children’s consumption of synthetic color additives in food and adverse effects on behavior.”

Only an hour has been set aside for oral public comment, but one can also submit written opinions.  Send them by March 23 to the contact person, Carolyn Jeletic, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (HFS–024), Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Pkwy., College Park, MD 20740, 301– 436–1913.

I plan to submit a statement, and I urge that those of you who have seen your children’s learning or behavior improve with removal of food colorings likewise submit a written document.  Your statement does not have to be scientific—just tell the story of your own experience.

For more information on the meeting, see http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-30187.pdf.

For more information on additives and children’s behavior:

Feingold Association: http://www.feingold.org

Food Intolerance Network: http://www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info

Center for Science in the Public Interest has a brief article covering the risks of cancer as well as learning difficulties from synthetic colorings: http://www.cspinet.org/new/201006291.html

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Talking to 120 College Students about Nutrition

Today I delivered my latest nutrition presentation to 120 University of Virginia students! How did I manage to attract such a large audience?  My husband, who teaches business law, offered them a teeny bit of extra credit to attend my lecture, as he does for legal lectures and court-watching.  We had decided that helping his students become healthier would be perhaps the most important influence we could make in their lives.  So I scanned my mental filing cabinet  of nutritional information, looking for the nutritional change that could make the biggest impact on their heath.

I  concluded that the easiest, the cheapest, and the most powerful lifestyle change would be to take vitamin C: taking it at levels greater than the RDA, taking it throughout the day, and taking  higher doses during illness.  That’s the gist, and my hour’s lecture explains the science supporting this recommendation, as well as the controversy surrounding it.

Sounds too simple?  Did you know that vitamin C has successfully treated diptheria, pertussis, snakebite, cancer, AIDS, and polio?  Are you aware that the prestigious Harvard University Nurses Study of 85,000 women concluded that those taking at least 360 milligrams daily (5 times the RDA) had 28% fewer deaths from heart disease, compared to those taking 90 milligrams (a bit more than the RDA)?  Have you heard that Linus Pauling, the Nobel-Prize winning chemist, proposed that heart disease has its origin in chronic vitamin C deficiency?  Did you see the New Zealand 60 Minutes video about a man saved from death by H1N1,  because his sons insisted that he be treated with  intravenous vitamin C?

After my talk the students asked many questions about doses and formulations, and they picked up extra copies of the outline to share with friends.   I am grateful to know that I’ve made an impact on their health.

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