Testimony to the White House Commission on Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Policy.
Lynn Murphy, Executive Director, Feingold Association of the U.S.
San Francisco, CA
September 9, 2000
The Feingold Association is a non-profit consumer network of parents of children who are sensitive to food additives. We personally assist about 5,000 families a year and see a 60-75% success rate. They are the lucky ones, they have found part or all of the answer to their child's chronic attention, behavior or health problems. But there are still many more. Consider just one condition, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), affects one out of 20 children. Over the past 25 years, we have assisted over half a million families nationwide to improve their quality of life simply by eating real food. It may sound strange, but we show them how to find real food in fast food restaurants and supermarket and how to re-discover cooking. Most families who give it a good try report everything from "it takes the edge off my child's anger" to "completely normal, delightful child".
There are about 2 million other families of children with ADHD who are searching for answers to their children's problems. These are children who are at risk for school failure, child abuse, delinquency, adult criminal behavior and depression. Simply eating real food would not help every symptom in every person but one thing is for sure:
Why shouldn't they be told of this before they are put on powerful psycho-active drugs?
One reason is the physicians may be afraid to recommend something that is "a departure from the mainstream". One such physician, who you will hear about from the next speaker, had a licensing action against him for "departing from the mainstream" . One of the charges was recommending an elmination diet to rule out food and food additives as a trigger of behavioral symptoms. The irony is that there were many more studies showing a link between food coloring and hyperactivity than there were about the safety of psycho-active drugs. It did not impress the judge, however. The way it works in California is it doesn't matter if the patient gets better, and it doesn't even matter whether there are studies, is it "What is the mainstream of doctors doing."
What the mainstream is doing about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is recommending a series of drugs and giving an approving nod to psychotherapy. Period. This does not foster progress in understanding the biological basis for ADHD, it does not serve families well, and our nation's children are being drugged--many unnecessarily. Hilary Clinton's task force is interested in just the safety of drugs issue.
Request #1. Could you please let her and the Surgeon General know that there is an issue that should be asked first--are these drugs really needed in the first place.
The Feingold Association has also asked the assistance of the National Institutes of Health. Almost 2 years ago, a special panel developed a consensus statement about ADHD which included: "the studies were intriguing and worthy of more research.
Request #2. Could you please help us understand, how many studies are enough? Why isn't more attention being placed on the diet-behavior connection?
The Feingold Association is not the only organization to recognize the importance of the diet/behavior connection already existing in the literature.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently reviewed the studies for the past 25 years. Their recommendations include
How they are doing this is detailed in the report from CSPI.
- Government, private agencies and health practitioners concerned about children with ADHD and other behavioral problems should acknowledge the potential for diet to affect behavior.
- They should advise parents to consider modifying their child's diet as a first means of treatment.
- Groups such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, International Food Information Council, and the National Institute of Mental Health should stop misinforming the public.
Request #3. Is there anything you can do to help correct this misinformation?
The CSPI report also recommends:
Research needs to be conducted to determine which (and to what extent) foods and food additives affect behavior, develop methods for identifying children most sensitive to foods, and investigate the underlying biological bases for sensitivity to dietary constituents. After all, understanding the underlying causes for these sensitivities may teach science something about the body, the brain and this syndrome called ADHD. The CSPI report has other recommendations, reviews the history the research on of ADHD and diet. It details elements that should be considered in future studies.
A side issue is relavant to all research which threatens the safety of a product. Just like the tobacco industry played around with facts about the safety of their products, there may be an equivalent in the food coloring industry. What 12,000 average people consume in food coloring in a day was studied and arbitrarily reduced. This is one way of insuring that few if any people will react to a chemical. Test just a trace of it. I've given you all the first page of the report that appeared in the journal Food Technology. Also there is a page showing the part that an industry group had in establishing these figures.
In summary, please check out the research yourself, and if there is anything you can do to get the powers that be to stop misrepresenting the studies showing a connection between food coloring and behavior, we would be very grateful--so would about 2 million kids and their families.