Why cutting out additives helps children work

By Sarah Harris
Daily Mail Education Correspondent
Saturday, November 23, 2002

Pupils who cut out artificial food additives can concentrate better in the classroom, teachers have discovered.

The children are calmer and better able to get on with their work when the chemicals - which are added to enhance the flavour and colour of food - are removed. One school discovered huge benefits when it banned from its menus 27 colourings and preservatives linked to hyperactivity.

Teachers soon noticed that the children were more able to concentrate. And one in three parents said their youngsters were better behaved while 18 per cent reported that their offspring were sleeping better.

'You can look around any school and find at least one child in every class who is not concentrating as well as they should,' said teacher Ann Fitzgerald, who noticed the difference in her own son when he stopped eating preservatives.

`These are the children who could benefit from an additive-free diet. `The surprising thing we found was that parents said that after cutting out the additives, their children were sleeping much better.

`They were actually going to sleep rather than fighting it,' added Mrs Fitzgerald, who spearheaded the scheme at St Barnabas Church of England First and Middle School in Drakes Broughton, Worcestershire. The school, which has 365 pupils, first blacklisted additives during a two-week trial in the summer with 100 parents extending the ban to home life.

Mrs Fitzgerald said she had been surprised by the number of hidden additives in food. Gravy, sauces and bacon were found to contain undesirable colourings and preservatives so the school switched brands. However, the only obvious difference to the canteen fare is that it serves white custard because it has banned the colouring used to make it yellow.

The ban has now been implemented full-time and head teacher Charles Lupton said: `We are so convinced of the negative effects of food additives that we are very keen for other parents to be aware of our findings.'

Teachers at Tywardreath primary school in St Austell, Cornwall, also noticed an improvement in children's behaviour after parents were asked to use an E-number free diet for a week.

E-numbers - laid down by a European Union directive - are used to identify additives and preservatives on food labels.

Children were calmer, less argumentative and their concentration spans greatly increased. Last month, a study by the Food Commission found that the additives used in hundreds of children's foods and drinks can cause temper tantrums and disruptive behaviour.

Colourings in products such as Jammie Dodgers, Smarties, Jelly Tots and fizzy drinks could spark behaviour changes in up to a quarter of toddlers.

The Government-funded study looked at 227 three-year-olds from the Isle of Wight. For two weeks they drank a daily fruit juice dosed with 20mg of artificial colourings and 45mg of preservative, which were either equal to or below permitted levels. The results showed the artificial food colourings and sodium benzoate preservative had `substantial effects' on behaviour.

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