Think Food Doesn’t Affect Behavior? You’ve Got to Read This.

Think what you eat doesn't affect how you feel and act? You need to read and watch this. The information and videos in this post are fascinating as researchers split kids into 2 groups and feed them different types of food. One group got typical party food while the other got more wholesome choices. The results are amazing.

{Food and behavior is a big topic these days.  Folks are talking about gluten-free diets, paleo diets, candida diets, and more.  Does it all matter?  Does food affect things like autism, ADD, ADHD and just plain old defiance? Ruth Almon, of Paleo Diet Basics is sharing with us some fascinating information about how food affects behavior.  I was amazed when I read this–check it out and make sure to share it to get the word out.  So many behavioral issues can be traced to gut health. We need to all inform and empower parents to make a difference in their children’s (and their own) lives.}

It’s common to joke about kids being on a sugar high after a party, so all of us know –on some level–that food influences how kids behave.

But how many of us realize the extent to which our children’s day-to-day actions are shaped and molded by the foods we feed them?

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An experiment on the effects of food on behavior done by the British TV series, The Food Hospital, produced shocking results. Party food loaded with sugar, artificial coloring, and other additives has the power to turn your lovely, cooperative child into a badly behaved, physically aggressive youngster.

The Food and Behavior Experiment

Children in Britain aged 5 – 9 attended a party. They were split into two groups:

Group One: was fed healthy options such as apple slices, carrot sticks, sandwiches, hummus, etc. and was given water to drink.

Group Two: received the usual party fair: candy, potato chips, and soda (or as they say in the UK, sweets, crisps, and fizzy pop), all containing loads of sugar, artificial coloring, and other additives.

The children’s ability to follow instruction, concentrate, and remember information was then measured as they played party games, and their actions were carefully recorded. You may be surprised by what they found.

Food Behavior Table


It wasn’t only how they behaved that was remarkably different.

The healthy food group did “48% better in the games overall” – that’s a huge improvement in performance.

Check out these videos to see what happened.


The Experiment. On Video.

Part One – The Test. 

UPDATE: For some reason the videos aren’t online right now, but you can watch this YouTube video to see portions of Part Two. We’re working to see what can be done about it.

For now, you can watch part of it here:

See how the coordinators divided up the groups, what they ate, and how things started to play out. This is very interesting!

Click on the below photos to see the compelling videos.

**UPDATE–It appears that occasionally the videos don’t work.  If that happens to you, try reloading several times, or paste the following url into your browser:

*** Don’t Watch the Spoiler Though!!!  When you click, you will have access to both videos, so make sure to watch Part 1 first and then Part 2.

Screen shot 2013-11-09 at 12.21.31 PM

Part Two

See the results of the experiment–how the kids behave and learn after eating their meals. Watch as parents and a psychologist evaluate behavior during play and learning tasks. A Must. See.

Again, click on the photo to see the video.

If Part 1 is showing, click on Part 2 below the video to see the results of this telling experiment.

Think Food Doesn't Affect Behavior? You have to read and watch this!
**Note:  The woman, when stating that they “don’t know” what made the difference, mentions “E numbers.” From Wikipedia, this is what she is referring to: “E numbers are codes for chemicals which can be used as food additives for use within the European Union and Switzerland (the “E” stands for “Europe”).They are commonly found on food labels throughout the European Union. Safety assessment and approval are the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority”


Those who ran the study say that they don’t know what it is in the party food that affects the children. Is it the sugar? The artificial coloring? Maybe the lack of essential nutrients? It’s not clear.

I suspect it’s a combination, with individual children being more affected by different things.

What is clear is that children not only behave better but concentrate better, follow instructions better, and remember more when they eat healthier food. Let’s not forget that concentration, following instructions, and memory are fundamental building blocks of the learning process and vital for success at school.

Are We Setting Our Kids (and Ourselves) Up for Failure?

So having watched this segment, I couldn’t help think that many kids are inadvertently being set up for failure by their own parents. Moms and Dads certainly intend to do the best for their children, and part of this can mean feeding them “regular food” that won’t set their children apart from their friends. But in doing so, our children are being sabotaged in ways that make it difficult for them to perform school tasks successfully.

They’re fed processed foods that can make them aggressive and difficult to control. Then, as if that weren’t bad enough, they’re penalized for their inability to learn and their out-of-control behavior.

We all know that a child who is constantly hitting other children, having tantrums, and running around wildly is a child who is continually reprimanded. We also all know a child who doesn’t follow teachers’ instructions, can’t remember what he or she was taught yesterday, or can’t concentrate long enough to finish a task receives poor grades and negative feedback.

No parent wants this for his or her child.

Tragically, in the worst cases, kids who are simply reacting to what they are being fed end up taking unnecessary prescription drugs or are sent to special schools.

Setting Children up for Success

How do we feed children to prepare them succeed in school and get along in society? Generally speaking, the more natural a food is, the less likely it is to cause a severe behavioral reaction. Keep in mind that there are plenty of individual differences in how children react to specific foods and additives.

One family might discover that avoiding a certain additive transforms their child into a little angel, while in another family cutting out wheat may do wonders.

That said, watch out in particular for these three substances, which are often linked with behavioral problems.

Three of the Most Troubling Things to Eat

1. Artificial Coloring

More and more evidence is pointing to artificial food dyes as a major cause of ADHD in children. While this hasn’t been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, the facts are strong enough to convince many European countries to ban blue 1 (brilliant blue), blue 2 (indigo carmine), yellow 5 (tartrazine), and yellow 6 (sunset yellow) among others. These food colors have FDA approval and are found in cereal, candy, and a variety of colorful foods popular with children.

2. Sugar

There is a shocking amount of sugar in processed foods – and some of it is lurking in places you wouldn’t suspect. One 12 oz. can of coke has 9 ½ teaspoons of sugar. The same amount of Tropicana Farmstand Juice has 9 teaspoons. There’s also lots of sugar in flavored yogurts and chocolate milk – not so surprising. But did you know that there is often sugar in savory foods, such as ketchup, bread, sausages, and barbeque sauce? Your child can consume a considerable amount of sugar even before you let him or her eat candy, and high sugar levels contribute to hyperactivity.

3. Sodium benzoate

Sodium benzoate is a preservative found in carbonated beverages and fruit juices, condiments, candies and many other products. It has been implicated either separately or together with artificial colorings for causing or aggravating ADHD symptoms, and is best avoided. Read labels.

A real-food, nutrient-dense paleo diet – which excludes these three substance as well as anything likely to affect behavior – seems to me the best way to ensure your kids get the right nutrition. Click to learn what the paleo diet is.

How Does This Affect Your Family

You may think that these problems don’t affect you since your child doesn’t suffer from serious behavioral problems or learning disabilities. Remember, the children in the video were just a regular group of school kids–not children selected because they didn’t behave well. The impact on them was profound, so clearly, this is a concern for every parent.

Let’s do all we can to set our kids up for success.

(UPDATE:  Think the evidence isn’t compelling enough?

Check out Response to Doubters–STILL Think Food Doesn’t Affect Behavior?  Read This.)

{From Adrienne.  I have REALLY noticed the relationship between food and behavior in our home. We’ve removed colors, preservatives, and then gluten, and sugar and have seen a lot of things improve as a result.  Let’s for sure do what we can to get the word out about this.  So many meds and doctors visits and frustrating scenarios could be avoided if we try to feed our kids (and ourselves) well.}

Ruth is one smart cookie. And she’s written a GREAT new book called Step By Step Paleo.  It’s a Guidebook for helping your transition to the paleo diet, which is a whole foods, grain free eating plan.  Many, many folks have seen positive changes to their health after making the changes the Ruth outlines in this book.  And it’s no wimpy tome either. It’s a load of info!

Paleo Cookbook

Have you noticed (or do you suspect) foods affect behavior in your house?  

What has YOUR experience been?

Ruth Almon of Paleo Diet BasicsRuth is a big fan of the paleo diet, having regained her health after decades of living with chronic fatigue syndrome. She’s the author of Step By Step Paleo, a guidebook that takes the guesswork out of transitioning to paleo. Ruth blogs at Paleo Diet Basics.

Photo Credits: The Food Hospital


    Speak Your Mind


  1. Were the children then split into the same groups and feed the opposite foods on a later date for an accurate study?

  2. Karina Sayrols Rangel says:

    Hello! I found this article very interesting.
    I’m from Mexico and have my own blog (written in Spanish) and would like your permission to translate this article and post it on my blog (mentioning yours as the original one of course!)
    Thank you very much for your attention and for sharing!

    • I am thinking that Google wouldn’t be fond of that regarding SEO. Did you do it? Thanks. Sorry for the delay – I have been so backed up w/ comments.

  3. Let’s not five crappy parents an out. If ur child behaves badly u should look at ur parenting skills not what’s in the frig. Bad parent raise unruly children point blank period… P.S. I’m a parent of three(2 girls & 1 boy). Oldest is on the honar roll at a magnet school and the other in pre-k reading 1 grade material. And I let them eat what they want half of time. Give ur kids the attention they want and deserve and they feel no need to act out for it. Be there and be aware !!!!!!

    • Hi Muhammed. It is not that simple. Plus, it sounds like you are calling me and Ruth (and all the others who have said food changes improved their children’s behavior) “crappy parents.” Not nice and it’s a really insensitive and callous thing to say.

      I am happy to have input here but not that kind. Thank you.

    • For thse people who think it’s always the parents fault, let me tell you a story. Among community of young families, We had a family of three boys that were the holy terrors of the group. We also had a family with a little girl that was perfectly behaved, who always expressed the same opnion. It’s the crappy parents. Well, after several years of a perfectly delightful, popular little daughter, their second child was born. Mom for some reason was not able to breastfeed this one. He was a difficult baby and guess what? He grew into a little holy terror. After trying everything to keep this child from terrorizing the others,they finally threw their hands up and apologized to the parents they had criticized in the past. You see, anecdotal or not, it had nothing to do with parenting skills, time or attention. I do remember this little boy having many health issues such as ear infections, allergies, etc. Some people can smoke 3 cigarette packs a day and not get lung cancer, but a nonsmoker does, it would be wrong to accuse the nonsmoker of smoking, even so it is wrong to automatically blame lack of parenting skills. People are so afraid to change lifestyle that they are willing to subject their children to medical abuse, rather than try a few diet changes for a few weeks. I m convinced that antibiotics destroy the good in our bodies and set us on a downhill slide for the rest of our lives unless we take control of our own health.

    • It’s not always crappy parenting, Sometimes the child has issues that consequences don’t help. I’ve tried all kinds of different disciplines with our child and have been to counselors, and psychiatrist. spend plenty of time with him but something in his brain doesn’t stop him from making wrong choices. Also food doesn’t seem to make much of a change either, yes, if he has lot’s of sugar and caffeine he’s a little more wound . I’m sick of people blaming parents. every situation is different. But I understand because before we got our son I would look at people and say you need to make them mind. We just have to do the best we can.

  4. Thank you for sharing. Love the article. My son has Autism and I myself have noticed how much food impacts behavior and the ability for him to focus, concentrate and be calm. I have tested it out myself and on days that he has had sugary food or foods chock full of artificial flavoring you could tell something is up. (Mood swings, laziness, inability to focus.)He is 8 and very aware of the affect food has on his mind and body, so the transition to a more healthy way of eating seems like it won’t be a problem. Finding more food options that do not contain so many chemicals and extra additives however does. Once again thank you for sharing. The word needs to get out there.

  5. Anytime my niece came over so we could visit together her mother would often send her with a can precooked spaghetti and sauce or beef raviolis. She was always well behaved until she ate lunch and really started to push my buttons. My mother suggested it was a red dye in the sauce along with the extra sugar. I never had a problem with offering her something simpler like a sandwich and a glass of milk and she was as sweet as she had ever been. Thanks for sharing the study, I’ve dealt with it first hand and the difference is amazing!

  6. I have always thought this to be the case. Currently I work in a mental health clinic watching parents struggle with their kids and behaviors….they come in with fast food, candy pop. No one wants to take responsibility to change when it’s so much easier to just put them on medications.
    There are children that must have these medications…but maybe, just maybe many would not. Maybe those that do wouldn’t need so much if we stopped feeling our children chemicals.

    Just a thought.

  7. I see this behavior in my nephew all the time. As soon as he eats any sugary, processed foods his whole demeanor changes, like Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde. He goes from a sweet kid to a mean, aggressive hyperactive brat with no attention span whatsoever. Add video games to the mix and it’s even worse.

    And his mom just does not get it. She is a smart woman but completely doesn’t see the connection between these types of “foods,” if you can call them that, and bad behavior. I think so many parents want to give their kids everything and don’t want to be the bad guy so will give them whatever they want without setting boundaries, including way too much sugar. Or they bargain with their kids with sugar. “If you behave we’ll go get an ice cream.” Most American kids are getting hundreds of grams more sugar a day than recommended and you can see it is like heroin to them. They really are overdosing on the stuff.

    Sorry, parents who disagree, but you are totally in denial. Stop making excuses for your child’s bad behavior and start looking at what you are feeding them and the boundaries you are not setting for them. You really are doing a disservice to your kids by not looking out for their best interests.

    • While I can completely understand and agree to a point, how does one explain the children who are fed all nutritious, organic foods but act like heathens? Or kids that eat junk food and are still actually really good kids? I’m not saying that it’s not possible there’s a correlation, but I find it hard to believe that food is the ONLY reason for kids acting the way they do.

      • It’s not the only reason, for sure. But I will suggest that often it could be an overindulgence in carbs or some food that doesn’t agree with the child. Food isn’t the only culprit, but it is often implicated. Hope that helps.

  8. stan pratt says:

    HI !
    Would be nice to see another party.. with the foods switched.. same kids.. Would give a LOT more credibility to the test. Not disagreeing in any way.. but would eliminate the possibility of all the “rowdy” kids getting the sweets,, and the quiet kids getting the healthy food. When you get the new results, averaged with the 1st test.. you will get a TRUE result for the group..

  9. Michael Baker, LCMFT says:

    I was very supportive of your article until I read, “Sugar causes hyperactivity.” Although too much sugar can do a lot of things, there is no conclusive research that shows it is linked to hyperactivity. That is simply a myth that people have been falling for, for years. So, when your article mentions that, it loses a lot of creditability, to me.

    • HI there and thanks for commenting. I will let Ruth address this but I looked at some of the supposed info on the internet about how this doesn’t happen and personally I don’t agree. Sugar, in the short and long term can cause this. I will address the long term first. It can cause gut dysbiosis which is linked to a myriad of behavioral issues. As for the short term, everyone can speak to having a sugar high. I just don’t really understand why this isn’t something widely accepted. What do you think?

    • Hi Michael. Sorry I lost you with that one line. :)
      First of all, I wrote that sugar contributes to hyperactivity, not that it causes it. That’s a significant difference.
      One reason research may mislead is if sugar actually doesn’t affect the vast majority of people, but has a dramatic effect on a very small minority. Outliers may be ignored.
      For instance, one of the commenters above wrote the following:

      I know that sugar and flour has these effects on me. My boyfriend didn’t quite believe me until I used baby formula in my coffee instead of podered milk.(long story on the mix up. Mexican market and english speaker). I was crabby, out of sorts, forgetful, mean, spacy and emotional. Baby formula is full of sugars.
      Now I am a grown woman who can express how she is feeling and it still took me a week to go “hey, this isnt right”. How is a child supposed to do that?

      How do you account for someone like that? You could just say she’s crazy, but when someone says every time I eat X I have a reaction Y, I tend to believe them. Why would she want to lie about it and deny herself sweets?

      But more importantly, what’s the plus side of feeding kids lots of sweets? Sugar consumption is unbelievably higher than it was 200 years ago – up from around 3 pounds per year per person to over 100 pounds per year per person ( see table). White sugar literally has zero nutrients. You may not want to reduce intake to zero – I haven’t – but I think it’s an excellent idea to keep sugar intake low even in your child has no behavioral problems for general health.

  10. This doesn’t surprise me in the least, but it is so great to see it spelled out by way of an experiment.

  11. The Feingold Program changed our son’s life, off meds too. The website of the organization has been posted but you might be interested in knowing that it also has a great Facebook group

    There’a Yahoo group too

    • It’s also important to know that reading labels will not lead you to a life without artificial dyes & flavorings, bht/tbhq & bht. It may not be on the lable but it can be in the product. That’s why being a member of the Feingold Association is important. The moms there research the products for its members by contacting manufacturers knowing what questions to ask.

  12. Here’s another study along the same lines. In this case it’s an alternative school (a euphemism for the public school where kids with severe behavior issues are sent), so before and after records were kept, and it wasn’t a one day experiment.

  13. Interesting article. I would love to see the videos but I get an error message stating I cannot watch them in my area, perhaps since I’m in the U.S. I was hoping they would be appropriate for my kids to watch to reinforce my ideals re: food. They often come home and complain that all the other kids have dessert or chips or juice… We do make some paleo treats but I don’t want them having them everyday. I will pass this along to my friends!

  14. Hi. I can’t get the videos to work, even when pasting the URL. Can someone provide a better link, please? Thanks in advance.

  15. Karen Lamphier says:

    Those three substances are certainly not good for any of us, young or old. My 3rd grader doesn’t generally get any of them. He becomes unable to follow directions, communicate successfully or read well after eating any wheat or gluten products, bounces off the walls after consuming any cow’s milk dairy products and becomes irritable after eating eggs. So indeed do keep the products mentioned in the article out of kiddos’ diets, but also beware of seemingly wholesome, natural foods like organic whole wheat breads, milk, cheese, eggs…or any other consumed product your kids may eat. Note that often the item that a child craves is that which disagrees with them the most. We went from an ADHD diagnosis to comments from teachers on how well he is doing and how much he has changed in three months with only diet changes. Good luck to all who are struggling with these issues!

  16. Jessica McHenry says:

    I definitely agree with this article but I am curious what the outcome would have been if they would have waited a week and switched the foods for each group. I have five children and have noticed that this kind of food effects each of my children differently – especially my one son in particular. He gets red ears and a red face from red dye- (It’s surprising what it is in) and he get’s incredibly hyper and defiant. Not defiant in a bad way but just hyper and laughing enough that he can’t take anything seriously. I guess with the test- and I admit I only read your part of this article so you may say to me…”go look at” before I ask all these questions lol but I would be curious to see if EVERY child was part of those incidents- did every child have the same problems with these kinds of foods? My kids range from age 10-2 and I really really see a difference with these foods and how they effect each of my kids. I also wonder if it is because we hardly ever feed them to them – they are NEVER really in our house unless it’s been a Christmas time treator birthday- but if we go to other people’s houses they sometimes have it…so does it effect them (or him) like say a glass of wine would effect someone more if they never have it compared to someone who has one everyday? I definitely do agree though and it’s definitely better to stay away from all of that stuff ! =)

  17. Great article! I couldn’t get the videos to work though.

  18. Check out the FAILSAFE diet by Sue Dengate. There is a stack of free info on her website as well –

    Saying that they don’t know what caused the bad behaviour is simply incorrect. Scientists have been studying this since the 1970’s and are very clear that it is artificial colours, flavours and preservatives which cause this behaviour. Some of you may remember the Feingold diet from this time.

    The FAILSAFE diet takes it one step further and eliminates amines and salycilates, which are naturally occurring food chemicals which can also cause reactions in sensitive children.

    We have been FAILSAFE for six years now, and I am absolutely certain that without it my children would have to be medicated. The interesting thing is, that for years I was one of “those” Mothers – bringing my own food to parties, not allowing the children to eat crisps or party snacks, packing their lunch for them every day….

    But now there is this groundswell of interest in “clean” eating from people following Paleo approaches, as well as from parents of children with ADD, ADHD, (Sue Dengate came across this approach because her own daughter had ADHD), Autism and various behavioural issues. I think its a GREAT thing and I was SO happy to see this article which demonstrates very, very clearly the effect that these poisons in our food chain can have on our children.

    Good on you !

  19. I’ve noticed that anything with Red 40 makes my younger cousins go off like a firecracker.

  20. I am a stepmom to a beautiful 8 yr old little girl. We alternate weeks with her mother, 1 week with us and 1 week with her mother, and so on. I limit candy and junk food. I also cook every meal except on Fridays, when we go out to eat for our Family Fun Night. Her mother and I have had some pretty heated arguments because I don’t let my stepdaughter eat whatever she wants, whenever she wants. Her mother feels she can have all the junk food she wants during the day, as long as she eats her “real food” at dinner (“real food” consisting of spaghetti’os or ramen noodles, or eating out alot). But, at the same time, her mother constantly tells me how bad my stepdaughter is when she’s at her mother’s house…doesn’t listen, won’t calm down, mean and aggressive behavior. We don’t experience that type of behavior when she’s with us. Granted, she’s 8, so she’s not always a complete angel. She still tests her boundaries on occasion, but all in all, I feel she acts better with us because of the limit on junk food and candy, and because of the structure of the environment here. I just wish her mother would understand! Thank you for the great article.

    • You are welcome!

      • You sound like a wonderful mom, with all the horror stories people hear about step moms they don’t hear enough about how loving and how they can make even better mom’s than the birth mom, Thank you for commenting on this article, it really made my day to know mother’s like you exist (:

        • HI and so sorry for not responding sooner — I have been inundated and am finally trying to catch up. Thanks and hope to see you around again!

  21. It’s not much of a surprise to me. I remember years ago my older cousin telling me that he hated when his daughter ate anything with a certain red colour dye (can’t remember which one) in it because it make her very hyper active. I also know that eating a lot of processed food can worsen ADD or ADHD behaviour. Sadly, so many parents don’t know or don’t care enough to watch what they give their children on a regular basis.

  22. I’m not surprised by the findings, nonetheless, great article! We need to get the “rest of the world” to be aware of this. Many parents just don’t see the long-term dangers of “junk food”.

  23. Jennifer says:

    I Totally agree with the article about eating clean foods and avoiding chemicals, But as a mother who has a child with ADHD (and tries my best to feed my kids REAL food), I feel that telling people ADHD is “caused by artifical dyes” is wrong!!!! The same as telling people that vaccines cause autism! I totally agree that artificial dyes and processed foods can magnify hyperactivity, but to say they cause ADHD is not right. So many parents of children with ADHD struggle daily with themselves, wondering what did they do wrong, what didn’t they do right. I Know that My son’s brain works differently than those without ADHD, it is not a disability or handicap, but it has taught us to help him learn other ways for him to learn and focus. I try to avoid those food listed and many others, but I don’t see much of a difference in his behaviors. I don’t doubt the study but when linking it to ADHD, I disagree.

  24. hello
    Im writing an article about the Effects O f Foods On Kids Behavior.i read ur article it was great.but can u help me to find more information about this subject.thank you

  25. Sheril C says:

    Its now May of 2014 and I came looking for this post to link in an internet discussion. Sadly the videos are not currently working no matter if I reload or try other browsers. So I have called Netflix and asked that they add Food Hospital to their site so that I can tell my fellow Netflix patrons that it is there. That way I can also rewatch the episode in question (series 2 episode 6) and I can see the rest of the show as well. 😉

    Maybe a few more people from here could call in and suggest it as well! 😀

  26. This information is worth everyone’s attention. How
    can I find out more?

    • Hi,

      Why don’t you hop over the website? Thanks to it and the great work of an Australian hospital the site explains, our life has changed – the kids are incredibly healthy and nice to be with, from having one almost handicapped and borderline stupid (at times. Other times she was incredibly bright and we went crazy understanding why)…and the other hyper and a likely candidate to be expelled from school because of antisocial behavior… at times (the worst always coincidated btw with their grandmother visits, when the “treat” was chinese food and pizza at restaurants, but we understood this only in hindsight). We always knew there was something else, but never thought of the food, and neither did the eight or ten specialists we paid fortunes to, after the regular “scratch allergies test” were ok.

      Now both kids are on honor rolls, well behaved, and we allow ourselves to postpone again and again my daughter’s medical appointments for a slew of weird diseases which made her childhood a miserable period, for her and for us. Since on the diet (and gluten, dairy and soy free, too) she’s “miraculously” in total remission from everything… I even had a man in the mall approach me and present himself as a scout for a modelling agency- for a girl who less than ten months before was puffed up, hunched over herself, and limping…

      The downside? I go on holidays with my food processor, know the first name of cooks at half a dozen restaurants and plan eating out the way others do a mission behind enemy lines….

      Such a small price to pay, really

      • Thanks, Emma. I am so glad to hear how well your family is doing. Love the holiday traveling plan. We took our Vitamix on vacation with us this summer :). Take care and hope to see you around again!

  27. My husband and I need to be gluten free, so the kids really are too, and it helps. But the artificial coloring. Wow, we know when my daughter has had red especially. She used to break out in a rash, so we knew to avoid it. But now if she has even a small amount the drama and crying is out of control. She bawls “why does it make me feel this way, I don’t like it, I can’t stop.” It is like having a severely hormonal teenage girl instead of a young 8 year old girl. At that point she feels like the whole world is out to destroy her, and she then can’t control her anger and frustration. It is not a pretty sight AT ALL!

  28. Bummer that these videos don’t work…would love to see them…THEY DID work before…is there any way we can get them again??

    People NEED to see this…soo evident…yes!!
    PLEASE….thanks…would love to see them and can’t find on youtube either….??
    Maybe the sugar lobby does not want parents to see this?


  29. Happy Preppers says:

    Nice article! Yes food influences behavior. In fact, the U.S. Army recognized the science of foods during World War II and supplied the troops with foods based on their findings. We’ve listed the morale boosting foods for prepping, because foods that influence positive thoughts give hope and comfort for survival. — Happy Preppers

  30. Something British school restaurants should take a look at perhaps.

  31. Christopher de Vidal says:

    My wife was on the board of the Feingold Association for a few years. (Search the comments for a discussion about them.) Yep, we’re big believers in the food-to-behavior connection. See it first-hand with our three.

  32. Thanks! Any suggestions on what to supplement for infant Tylenol when by baby is sick or has a fever? I know that has red dye in it.

  33. restorationgirl says:

    Just in case this ever helps anyone I’m going to say it:
    I wonder in the test above that some of the major offenders are not listed. This is my experience – and only upon massive research online did I become aware of ingredients being ingested even in so called ‘health food’ brands.

    I’ve noticed dramatic differences (in myself) and an elderly person i know when they eat any Annatto, Carrageenan, and MSG (see all the names MSG is hidden under like ‘flavorings’ of any sort, protein of any sort (ie soy, vegetable, etc), and the term ‘Spices’ without reference to what those spices ARE in parenthesis on the nutritional label. I can tell right away when they’ve been ‘out to eat’ or at a cookout, over at friends, etc.
    Verbal ticks, tourrette’s type stuff, verbally repeating words / outbursts, singing nonsense, moodiness, sitting there shaking the head ‘no’ like a monkey back and forth for no reason (see Annatto below for what I believe was the culprit mostly in sharp orange cheddar cheese in our case)….. it’s all brain swelling caused by these poisons. Thanks for the heads up on Sodium Benzoate – I think that is in the rolls I bought at Sam’s Club….. the price got me. Now I’m making bread for them. This ‘disorder’ has been going on for many years in this person & if i tell them it’s ingredients they balk, but the results are there. I got to see the person’s reaction when the wife was cooking and now the difference when I’ve been able to replace everything with products without Annatto, Carrageenan, and MSG (still working on the MSG – lots of hidden names and ‘health food’ stores are as bad as grocery stores for all three offending ingredients so don’t get lulled into false safety shopping there. I have a well known brand of natural chicken broth and it has MSG in there hiding. Not sure if there exists an MSG free chicken broth, will have to do some research online on MSG forums – go to the people who live with this to find out the truth of products that are safe!)

    Annatto is mainly in ‘orange’ food and creates head banging in children – you should see the long list of posts on one website where mothers realize they’ve been poisoning their kids & a simple change gets rid of the ‘behavior’. Annatto is not only in orange dairy foods like cheese and yogurt (by the way it’s fall season so in those pumpkin (orange) products – be aware.). Just read all the ingredients you’re buying before you buy it – and don’t get complacent thinking the company will never change the ingredients. Keep aware. Look for Annatto in a very well known ‘health food’ boxed WHITE mac and cheese, too – I got caught on that one thinking ‘it’s not orange’…… had a reaction and started looking at what we ate – by the way it all affects me, too. Just because you’re not showing ‘obvious’ signs of behavioral changes does not mean it is not causing inflammation in the brain anyway. Maybe this is the cause of the Alzheimers epidemic, brain fog, memory loss, dementia that we’re seeing – just years of abuse of eating boxed, packaged, fast food. (I’m guilty of all of this so don’t feel bad – just make better choices and get rid of the obvious stuff first and you’ll be ahead of the game. By the way – if you like yogurt they make yogurt makers – saw one on a home shopping channel even.)

    Carrageenan is one of the most highly inflammatory things you can eat – I worked for 10 yrs in a health food store and always thought it was benign because it was ‘natural’. Not benign. Check your soy milk, dairy products, cream cheese, ricotta, ice cream, non dairy substitutes, creamers, etc. It makes things blend well so don’t just go by me – look up Carrageenan reactions or allergies online. See Cornucopia Institute for a list of products they know of with Carrageenan. Keep in mind this does not list Annatto and MSG so be aware of those things in the products listed.

    MSG is hiding under all sorts of names and there’s even a man who is an advocate against MSG who has been speaking on the ill effects of it for many years who was told by someone in the MSG manufacturing that when this guy reveals another hidden name MSG is under they will just think up ‘a different name to hide it under’. I am not kidding. The guy who is against MSG is named Dr Russell Blaylock and you can find lots of videos – some very in depth on You Tube. By the way the people who manufacture packaged foods – let’s say they order ‘spices’ to put into their chicken broth for example…..if they know that MSG is in the ordered spices (or any other ingredient they are importing from another manufacturer) the company packaging the food for sale legally can print on their package ‘no MSG’ and be within the law. In other words all they have to do to print ‘no MSG’ on their product and look like they are really on your side is to order an ingredient for part of their production and by law since they themselves did not manufacture that ingredient it could have MSG in it and they are NOT required to tell you – and they can state on their label ‘no MSG’….and it is all legal. If you call the company their CSR’s, supervisors, managers, and even Manufacturing all may be unaware of the truth of hidden MSG or they might just be telling you what they believe to be true – that MSG would say MSG on the label if it were in there.

    My experience with allergies / reactions of any sort is that people who don’t have them think it’s no big deal & even if they know something is in there they won’t see the importance of telling you because they’ve never experienced what you live through. I do wonder how many people are suffering depression and a host of other mental difficulties would benefit from taking these ingredients out of their food and their kids foods. If I’ve noticed a difference in someone so dramatically who doesn’t think there is a link at all (so it’s not placebo) then how many other people could at the very, very least improve dramatically with these changes.

  34. This is so interesting. It’s funny, when I go to Safeway, I feel like it’s mostly filled with poison! I wonder how gluten fares compared to these three evil “foods.” Thanks!

  35. Correlation does not imply causation, even in cases like this.

    It’s entirely possible that the kids’ actions are a result of the social contexts of the food, rather than the physical properties of the food. By which I mean, the kids may act differently because they have been taught (however subconsciously) that you act differently in a place where there are healthy snacks than a place where there is cake.

    Also, I feel that one incident of bad behaviour tends to lead to another, so it makes sense that there would be numerous more incidents, instead of just a few more.

    And of course, there’s the issue that an experiment consisting of one party with one group of kids (however big) does not a study make.

    As an aside, I don’t have any feelings one way or the other about whether food makes kids misbehave. I’ve heard about studies which have disproved the notion, but I haven’t read or followed up on them myself so I don’t put much stock in them. I’m just saying, I don’t put any stock in this, either.

    • Hi there. Since you didn’t give a real email address I know you won’t get my reply, but here goes anyway.

      Of course correlation doesn’t imply causation but I think that the hypotheses that you put forth are much less likely to be the case than the actual junk in the food causing the behavior issues.

      I think of it like this very simple analogy. If you put sludge in a car’s engine, it won’t work well. We put “sludge” in our own “engines” and yet we still expect them to run well. It doesn’t make any sense. We treat our kids like they are garbage disposals and then wonder why they don’t behave well.

      I don’t really understand how or why a child would be taught even subconsciously to behave differently when there is a healthy snack. If anything I think they would behave worse – as in they would complain and refuse to eat the food and be sullen.

      Neither I nor the author of this post said it was a scientific peer-reviewed study. But I think it is a very clear demonstration of what happens when you feed “non food” to kids.

      Thanks and somehow I do hope to see you around again and am open to hearing your reply.

  36. Hi! I am doing a research paper on this topic. I am looking for feedback on more sources and other studies that have been done on this. If anyone can help that would be great!-Hannah

  37. I read a blog about a year ago stating that some schools are banning children bringing their own lunches/snacks to school. so the children are forced to eat what the school provided for them. The only way they would be allowed to bring lunch was if they had a doctors note stating they had a specific food allergy. Has anyone else heard this?

  38. Kim Garcia says:

    Growing up in the mid 70’s my younger sister was placed on The Feingold Diet which eliminated all preservatives, additives and coloring (ex: BHT/BHA) from food for ADHD. Believe it or not, sugar was not one of the forbidden ingredients. In fact, without all the other additives, it wasn’t associated with causing hyperactivity. My sister consumed sugar on a regular basis in moderation and never had outbursts of hyperactivity. However, it was always apparent when she did deviate from the Feingold Diet because it was as if she was on speed. If I was not a witness to how evident this diet works I may be skeptical but it worked from the time she was a toddler thru her adolescent years. She is 40 years old now and and far more healthy because of the healthier diet she ate. She no longer needs the Feingold Diet but continues to make healthier choices. I only wish my mother insisted that I do the Feingold Diet growing up as well but at the time it was costly. I do make these choices for my family now.

    • That’s fascinating. I am dealing w/ having to re evaluate my oldest’s diet. And my own. He is having recurring issues now and it’s hard. Clearly this all matters. Thank you!

  39. We LOVE this kind of information & would encourage parents to pay very close attention! “Move more! Eat less! Milk is for babies! Fowl is foul! Pork is for Porkers! Sugar is poison! If it isn’t organically grown, the suicide is included at the checkout!” ~mikewondoctrine~

  40. Beth Husom says:

    Thank you for this article regarding sugar and behavior. My 3 year old boy is normally very easy but can be a holy terror; kicking, tantrums, yelling, crying… Almost always, I trace it to food. I check out daycare’s lunch that day, ask his teacher their am/pm snacks, and see if my parents gave him a treat if they picked him up. It’s hidden sugar; high fructose corn syrup, etc. that gets us, and sugar in completely inappropriate foods, like tomato soup, milk, bread and ketchup for instance. I know many articles and official studies do not find evidence of sugar and behavior, but I will testify before a grand jury that sugar matters. We make homemade bread without sugar, drink whole milk, and get food with the lowest possible sugar possible. However, his daycare provider said it’s state law they give children skim milk, which contains sugar. Maybe if parents and teachers keep making noise our food will get healthier!

    • I say, “testify” :). We need to get the word out about this. Skim milk has added sugar? Are you sure it’s not the sugar that’s naturally in milk? Thanks so much!

  41. Jessica Jensen says:

    I saw a reports several years ago, about a school in New York. It was a school fro children who were already “problem kids” (I’m sorry i cannot remember specifics). They had a special program where the students were at the school for like 12 10 hours a day and they provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner to the children (I believe part of this was due to most students being low income and weren’t being fed at home consistently, but again I can’t remember specifics). What I do remember is that they switched all of the students to a healthier diet low in sugar and high in protein and vegetables. They found that there was a much lower incidence of behavior problems and the students also did better in their classes!

    I have been a substitute teacher for many years and I can always tell which students have had a lunch filled with things like purple fruit drink and cheetos, and which ones have had apple juice and carrot sticks. And I feel too much sugar isn’t great, but processed foods are worse. Maybe the food colorings and preservatives?

  42. Hi Adrienne! I read your articles on Essential Oils and really appreciated all the information that you provided. I became a user of essential oils about eight months ago and have had many life changing health benefits happen for myself, my family and friends. I found this article about how what we feed our children affect their behavior while searching for a vitamin supplement for my 4 1/2 year old son. We eat fairly healthy and avoid food coloring and extra sugar at all costs when it comes to my son but there are still some issues that he struggles with. I had started him on YL’s Kids multi vitamins and could see a difference in his overall attitude and behavior within a few weeks, however, they have been out of stock for weeks with no date yet for them to be back in stock. I was wondering if there was another vitamin that you could recommend that would be comparable to that. Most vitamins that you purchase at the stores have artificial sweeteners and food coloring. I live in an area where going to a whole foods market or health food store takes about two hours. Thank you for your help!!

    • Hi there. Thanks so much. Are you specifically looking for a multi? Do you think he isn’t getting good nutrition? This is one that I have heard good things about. (affiliate link) Does that help or sound like what you are looking for?

  43. Danielle says:

    I can not tell you how much food affects humans! My son was diagnosed with ADHD and we put him (and our daughter) on the Feingold Diet. It was like day and night with our son. He had more control of his body and mind. When I would adhere to the diet, I didn’t think I felt any different. That is, until I went OFF the diet. Then I would feel the difference, especially with headaches, which I never used to get. 2 1/2 years after we started the diet with our children, my son now has NO signs of hyperactivity. He sometimes still has a hard time focusing, but it’s usually with tough school subjects, which is hard to blame him for. This article/video is great information for people. Thank you!

  44. happy girlfriend says:

    I bet the children in the health foods group would have done even better if they had not been made to eat sandwiches along with the healthy foods. The ingredients list in the average loaf of bread is very long and very scary.

  45. Dr. Julia LaJoie says:

    There may be something to your study but it obviously is not double blinded and therefore introduces huge bias in everyone’s expectations and “observations” of behavior. I think you should continue to study this topic but hire a scientific researcher to help you design and analyze your data in a more objective and reproducible way. It’s more work but worth it for the credibility of your results.

  46. Adrienne, I would like to thank you first and foremost for the time intensive research. I’m imagining you, like many of us have had to find these changes out on your own because of behavioral issues that mainstream medicine would be alarmingly willing to offer medication for.
    Even though our eldest has a broader palate, the younger two are prone to reach for the junk that grammy brings with her. I read about the essential oils usage in another post of yours and I wonder-are there eo’s that can help with the sugary cravings? Obviously, trashing the junk is exactly what I need to do, but come a certain week of the month & I’M the one bringing the junk into house! (meno)PAUSing for a response… :-)

    • Hi and thanks for commenting. Here is the response from the oils company about cravings:

      Cinnamon Bark and Ginger Root helps curve cravings. Ginger Root settles the stomach and pH. Cinnamon Bark should specifically help with sugar cravings.

      Also, our Slim and Trim product is designed to curb cravings.

      I do think personally that getting the stuff out of the home and out of your diet is the way to go, of course. Have you tried some of the sugar alternatives in my recipes? On another related note, when I cut out caffeine I found PMS issues were decreased and NAN / RMO has a blend called Feminine Aid that I have heard / read great reviews about: (that’s an affiliate link).

      I hope this all helps!!

  47. I’m wanting to know once a child eats food with the dyes in it how much time (approx.) does it take for the behavior changes? Could it be 12-24 hour reaction time?

  48. Doesn’t this study seem like more of a case for Captain Obvious? You load kids up with sugar and junk food and they act out. Garbage in, garbage out.

  49. thank you for this information- I just wanted to comment that although I believe that what you feed your child does make a difference in their behaviour, I also think that kids are programmed a certain way from the beginning and that parenting also plays a big part in shaping childrens behaviour. I feed my children limited sugar, very little, if any, colour inane sodium benzoate and I think that my kids must be the ones in the % that still act up- maybe that says something about my parenting skills:( but I do believe there are other factors that contribute to the behaviour as well as what they eat.

    • Thanks for commenting. Of course there are many factors in parenting but there are other things besides sugar and color that can affect kids…like gluten, high glycemic fruits, etc. My son doesn’t do well on a lot of carbs and my other one on high glycemic fruits. Do your kids eat a lot of carbs / things like bananas, etc.?

      • Hi! Aware this is an old article, but I read it with interest when it came up on my newsfeed and just wanted to write a quick comment. I have a career in nutrition and dietetics, and feed my kids a very healthy diet, we don’t keep any junk food in the house and treats are minimal. My son’s 3.5 and for the past 10 months his behaviour has got progressively worse, to the point where I could no longer use toddler tantrums as an excuse and realised my parenting couldn’t be THAT bad. He was having meltdowns, highs and lows for the majority of his waking day, and aside from anything else, I felt so sorry for HIM and what it must feel like for HIM. 2 months ago I closely examined his healthy diet and stumbled across the link between ‘salicylates’ and behaviour – a chemical naturally occurring in many fruits and veg (look up Feingold diet if you’d like more info). I realised part of my son’s healthy diet was actually the cause of his poor behaviour. I cut out completely 2 of the worst culprits, tomatoes and apples and all foods containing tomatoes and apples – both very high salicylate foods. The results have been dramatic – he’s a completely different boy. The relationship between diet and behaviour is clearly complex and very individual.

        • Thanks for sharing that. I have looked at salicylates too, mainly for a friend, but also for my kids. Glad it’s worked so well for you and yes, it is closely related.

  50. I give my child junk food and he acts horribly a lot of times and I know that I know that I know MOST of it is his diet…kids definitely do have different personalities but I think this experiment and the results are legit…anyone who doesn’t think its about the food, I’m wondering why? Is it like a feeling guilty because you aren’t ready to change your eating habits? It’s hard I know but I’m going to try slowly…not feel guilt and shame but use this as a positive thing! If you don’t believe it, try a test at home!

  51. Hi,
    Could you send me the source of the study? Who exactly did it? Was it published? I’ve looked around but cant seem to find it… sorry if you did post it and I’m missing it.

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