Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Review: Why Your Child Is Hyperactive

Curiosity led me to borrow "Why Your Child Is Hyperactive" by Dr. Ben Feingold from the library. A friend had told me how this book helped her pin down some of her child's behavior issues to food. The concept intrigued me.

The behavioral effects of artificial colors (dyes), artificial flavorings, additives, and preservatives in food were discussed through case studies and observations made by the author in his many years of being a pediatrician and an allergist. Red and yellow dyes came across as the main culprits in causing undesirable behavioral changes such as unprovoked aggression and learning difficulties. Artificial colors and flavorings were also observed to cause physical symptoms in some people including severe headaches, nausea, and acute hives. Dr. Feingold also warns readers about misleading or incomplete ingredient labels on food, which I think is mostly addressed better today than it was in the 70's when this book was published.

I admit that I skimmed through at least half the book, trying to pick up interesting points and skipped chapters like "The Need For Research". Dr. Feingold suggests the San Francisco Kaiser Permanente Diet (food elimination diet) as an alternative to medication and even provides recipes at the end of his book. He mainly talked about how his clients were able to discontinue medication for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) within days or short weeks after shifting to a dye-free, artificial flavoring-free diet.

In addition to artificial colors and flavorings, he also names fruits and vegetables that should be omitted in all forms from the diet as they contain natural salicylates, which can pose a problem due to their innate chemical structure. The list of taboo foods included many that I like including almonds, apples, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, oranges, and so on. I think the only fruits that were considered ok were grapefruits and lemons. Of course, all processed food with artificial additions were off limits too.

It's an old book but it served as a good reminder for me to read food labels and whenever possible, steer clear of artificial anything in food. Is this really possible in this day and age?

Have you read it? What did you think?