London, Apr 10 (UNI) Artificial colours used in children foods such as cakes, drinks and sweets make them hyperactive, resulting in slow and disruptive behaviour, a study says.
The number of hyperactive children could be cut by a third by banning suspect food additives, scientists said today.
The researchers believe that removing artificial colours from children's foods, including cakes, drinks and sweets, would bring significant health and social benefits.
Thousands of children would avoid the blight on their education caused by hyperactive behaviour, which can mean they are labelled slow and disruptive.
Removing the chemicals could also help reduce anti-social behaviour in teenagers, according to the researchers from the University of Southampton, led by Professor Jim Stevenson.
The scientists believe the harm caused to the IQ of youngsters is equivalent to the damaging impact of lead on developing brains.
The Southampton team calculates that some 6.6 per cent of children aged three to 12, a total of 462,000, suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The academics believe this figure could be reduced by 30 per cent - around 140,000 - if the additives were banned.
Professor Stevenson and his team discovered that food chemicals caused ''psychological harm'' to normal healthy children.
Two groups of children showed changes in behaviour when given the additives during controlled trials. They found it hard to sit still and concentrate, they had problems reading and became loud and impulsive.
Professor Stevenson said, ''We now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colours can adversely influence the behaviour of children.'' ''We know that hyperactivity in a young child is a risk factor for, for example, later difficulties in school. Certainly it is associated with difficulties in learning to read,'' he added.
''It is also associated with wider behavioural difficulties in middle childhood, such as conduct disorder,'' the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
Children who are diagnosed with ADHD can find their entire school careers and lives suffer as a result. The report warned, ''Elevated levels of hyperactivity in young children represent a risk for continuing behaviour problems into later childhood.'' ''It should also be recognised that children with elevated levels of hyperactivity can be disruptive to a family and are sometimes socially isolated because peers find their behaviour unsettling,'' it added.
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