In the 1970s and early 1980s, my son Zohar was miserable and unmanageable. The doctor prescribed Ritalin to “fix the imbalance in his brain.” We began with Ritalin and progressed through all the medications then available, including one now removed from the market because it causes liver failure. Unfortunately, none of them worked well for Zohar, who had side effects ranging from headache and insomnia to hallucinations and Tourette Syndrome. After some years, his neurologist took him off all medications, and two different psychiatrists told us to “not expect much” from him. After the worst year of my life as a parent, I learned of Dr. Ben Feingold’s work on food additives and behavior. With nothing to lose at that point, we tried the Feingold Diet — and it worked dramatically. The boy who was not expected to succeed now has a degree in chemistry and a degree in engineering and is a fine young man who would make any parent proud. See his story as originally published on the Feingold website.
In the 1990s, I became a volunteer for the Feingold Association, a national nonprofit organization educating and supporting parents in trying an elimination diet low in additives and salicylates. After witnessing hundreds of families have the same success as ours with this dietary change, I was on a mission to find out why.
I went back to school, majoring in Bio-Psychology and graduating with “high honors” (magna cum laude) from Agnes Scott College in 1998. I was also accepted by Psi Chi (the National Honors Society in Psychology) in 1997, and have a certificate of completion from the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in 2004.
While at Agnes Scott College, I was able to complete two independent (unpublished) studies. In one, four children were put on the Feingold Diet and followed with the computerized TOVA (Test of Variables of Attention) to determine whether their parents’ observations matched the computerized test results (they did). The other study, on rats, showed that rats fed Red 40 became not only hyperactive, but also impulsive, being unable to wait the 60 seconds delay they had been trained to expect. When the Red 40 was discontinued, their observed gender-related behavioral changes returned to normal quickly, but not their graphs of impulsivity.
Besides studying the science connecting diet to behavior, I also wanted to make the Feingold Association’s program easier for parents to access. Children should not have to suffer years of side effects when drugs don’t work well (as in my son’s case) just because doctors typically didn’t talk about the diet — indeed, most doctors had been “informed” repeatedly by the food additive industry that diet simply doesn’t help. So, beginning in the 1990s, I created an internet presence for the Feingold Association via the website www.Feingold.org, an online message board and email helpline (this was before Facebook), and a free monthly newsletter for more than 17,000 email subscribers. I also began building a library of research on the relationship of diet to ADHD, autism, asthma, eczema, etc. I had found, indeed, that when the diet helps a child, it seems to help the various comorbid conditions that “go with” the ADHD, as well.
In March of 2011, along with a select panel of physicians and researchers, I was invited to Washington, DC, to testify before the FDA Hearing on Food Dyes. The video above is from my 9-minutes of testimony to the FDA on the effect of food dyes on children.
Over a period of several years, I coordinated and expanded the information “handouts” and articles used by Feingold volunteers at conference display tables across the country, to create the Feingold Bluebook, which has been distributed by doctors, conference speakers, teachers, and parents. The 60-page 2012 edition can be downloaded by clicking the picture.
In February, 2019, at the request of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, I summarized each of the research studies relating food dyes to neurological and behavioral effects for consideration by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in their deliberations over whether to reconsider a warning label on products with food dyes. This 188-page document can be downloaded from here.
The blog TalkingAboutTheScience.com was begun in 2016 as a place to collect and showcase a wider variety of research on items beyond diet that impact health and behavior – including environmental toxins, heavy metals, and vaccines. The linking biological thread appears to be difficulty in excreting toxins, inhibition of sulfate metabolism, or suppression of relevant hormones.
Politics of the Research
After learning the skills needed to understand the scientific method, I began to read all the studies I could get and found significant support for the food dye-behavior connection. See my FDA video and the books above. I found that the amount of food dye used in many of the challenge studies was far less than the average child actually consumes – yet, even so, in most of the studies at least some of the children reacted to it.
I also found that what may be the most troubling of all is the consistent denial of what the science shows; denial not only of the harm done by chemicals in foods, but also those in vaccines and other products children and adults are routinely exposed to. Often the most publicized studies are those funded and designed by the very industries whose income derives from the sales of such products. Worse than that, if you ask about the safety of a food dye, a pesticide, or a vaccine, the mantra for years has been that “there are no studies showing any problem.” But yes – there are such studies, and consumers need to see them. Unfortunately, when studies questioning or even disproving product safety claims cannot be sufficiently hidden, much effort by the industry has gone into demonizing, diminishing, or ridiculing the authors. Doctors who quote such research have been attacked. Lives have been ruined.
I believe in scientific integrity. The science should be visible to everyone; there should be no taboo topics. No well-designed study should be ignored because the results might disturb someone’s profits. No study designed/funded by those making a profit should be considered the “last word” on any subject. As a society, we should never be afraid of the truth, but rather we should indeed be afraid when truths are denied or hidden.