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         Calming our Children:

An Examination of the Feingold Diet

By Courtney Williams



Hyperactivity in Youth: ADD and ADHD


Two of the most prevalent problems that affect adolescents are Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. These disorders have the capability of greatly disrupting the social and academic lives of children, as they are marked with short attention spans, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2002, nearly 1.6 million children between the ages of 5 and 11 were diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

( This data illustrates that the prevalence is steadily on the rise. Additionally, changes in society use of food additives and coloring can also explain the rise of ADD and ADHD in children and adolescents. Many physicians have suggested solutions to reduce hyperactivity in children and adolescents, one of the most influential being Dr. Benjamin Feingold, who introduced the Feingold Diet. Although the Feingold Diet was highly popular during the past few decades, many physicians have debated whether or not it is actually effective in reducing hyperactivity. The following sections will give an in-depth look at the Feingold Diet, Dr. Feingold’s research and research of others in order to determine whether or not the Feingold Diet is effective.


What the child growing up in the U.S. in the 1940s go:

What child growing up in U.S. today gets:

White toothpaste

Multi-colored toothpaste, perhaps with sparkles


Sea Treasures Instant Oatmeal (turns milk blue)

Corn Flakes

Fruity Peebles

Toast & butter, jam

Pop Tarts

Cocoa made with natural ingredients

Cocoa made with artificial flavorings and some dyes.

Whipped cream

Cool whip

No vitamins (or perhaps cod liver oil)

Flintstone vitamins with coloring & flavoring

White powder or bad-tasting liquid medicine

Bright pink, bubble-gum flavored chewable or liquid medicine

Sample school lunch: Meat loaf, freshly made mashed potatoes, vegetable, Milk, cupcake made from scratch

Sample school lunch: Highly processed foods loaded with synthetic additives, no vegetable. Chocolate milk with artificial flavor.

Sample school beverage: Water from the drinking fountain

Sample school beverage: soft drink with artificial color, flavor, caffeine, aspartame, etc.

Candy in the classroom a few times a year at class parties

Candy (with synthetic additives) given frequently



What Is The Feingold Diet?

            The Feingold diet was developed by distinguished pediatric

allergist, Dr. Benjamin Feingold. In 1975, Dr. Feingold’s research


suggested that artificial food colorings, flavors, and preservatives may

lead to hyperactivity in adolescents

( “He

[Dr. Feingold] reported that when foods containing artificial and natural

salicylates (like aspirin, Pepto-Bismol, apples, berries, citrus, cucumbers,

grapes, tomatoes, tea) are eliminated in the diet, the behavior of children

with ADHD improves by 50%”


            The Feingold Diet is a component of a larger endeavor entitled the Feingold Program. The Feingold program, according to, is a “new way of shopping and eating that combines old-fashioned nutrition with modern convenience” ( The Feingold program encompasses three steps: (1) educating patients on what food additives trigger unwanted symptoms; (2) teaching patients how to find enjoyable foods in a healthier form; (3) teaching patients how to integrate the new foods into their lifestyles; and (4) showing continual support to patients by updating them with shopping time and food updates. (


 Claims of the Feingold Diet


According to, the No Nonsense Guide to Alternative Medicine, “Every kid is different and we have seen parents who reported that reducing food that contains lots of sugar works for their kids. We think it's worth a try” (

In an article written in 1970, Feingold proposed that “Strict application of the diet will be followed by a favorable response in the behavioral pattern of 40 – 50% of children” (1982, page 161).

Today, Dr. Feingold’s hypothesis has been retested, and according to Feingold Association of the United States, “the success rate for families following the Program correctly is over 80%” ( The Association also cites that studies support their claims: the 1989 Kaplan study yielded a 68% success rate; however, this study only tested a portion of the Feingold program. Additionally, 1994 Boris study showed that 73% of children who participated in the Feingold Diet had a success rate. Finally, the Feingold Association cites the 1994 Rowe study which detailed those children who were in the control group behaved badly after receiving yellow dye; the study also gave evidence that 75% of children with ADHD improved with the Feingold diet (



Critics Say

Photo Source (

  Since Feingold’s diet has been proposed, there have been a number of critics who       refute his claims. Claims are refuted on the basis of difficulty or avoiding food  
             additives in our current-day food preparations; as the preceding chart illustrates,      
             the majority of the foods we eat contain some form of food additive, not to              
             mention the large amount of additives which are contained in fast food.

Some critics believe that Feingold’s diet would require a great change in one’s family lifestyle and eating patterns due to the limited number of foods and their expensiveness ( However, the Feingold Association of the US does publish material which lists foods which can be purchased that meet the requirements of the diet. In addition to the shopping list, the Feingold Association also publishes a Fast Food and Restaurant guide which lists foods from fast-food and restaurant chains which meet the requirements of the Feingold program (

The Feingold handbook also includes a response to these claims: “Like any change in diet, the Feingold Program does require that patients make changes in the food that they eat. However, these changes do not usually require significant changes in the types or cost of food a family may choose or the way a family chooses to prepare them.” (

Experimental Replications


          Since the 1970s, several scientists have conducted experiments such as those done by Dr. Feingold. Though results have been varied, overall one can conclude that Feingold’s theory as correct: eliminating artificial food additives yields an improvement in the behavior of children (Jacobson and Schardt, pages 5 and 6).


What Do the Experts Think?


            In 1977, Dr. Arnold Brener decided to test the results of Dr. Feingold’s experiment. Dr. Brener conducted the study on 56 children of the ages between 6 and 14. All of the children who took part in the study had been previously diagnosed as hyperkinetic. The children in the study began the Feingold diet in order to determine if it had an effect on their hyperactivity. The children for the study were recruited by solicitation of their parents at doctor’s office visits. Many of the youth had to be dropped from the experiment for various reasons, leaving only 32 to actually participate: “Of these 32 children, 11 seemed to have an unequivocally excellent response as interpreted by schoolteachers, parents, and the pediatrician” (Brenner, 653). These 11 children were able to discontinue their medications. Eight of the children in the experiment were seen as “probably improved. The remaining 13 children remained the same after being on the Feingold diet. The author concludes that “all children having behavior problems with poor impulse control and unusual irritability be given a therapeutic trial regimen” (Brenner, 656).

            In 1978, GH Goyette along with several other experimenters again set out to repeat Dr. Feingold’s experiment. Their experiment yielded similar results. After being put on the Feingold diet “subjects demonstrated a 57 percent mean reduction in behavior problems as rated by teachers” (Goyette et al. page 39). In the conclusion of the article, the authors state “artificial food dyes indeed actively impair and disrupt the behavior of children” (Goyette et al. page 40). Therefore, Dr. Feingold’s findings once again proved to be valid.

            There have also been more recent confirmations of Dr. Feingold’s research. In 2004, nine experimenters decided to again test the results of Dr. Feingold. In this experiment, the children who were diagnosed as being hyperactive were put on a diet which eliminated artificial food coloring, and the control group received a placebo. After a week, the behavior of the children was assessed. The results concluded that there is an “adverse effect of artificial food coloring and preservatives on behavior” (Bateman et al. page 506).

            According to, “Based on this and other recent studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics now agrees that eliminating preservatives and food colorings from the diet is a reasonable option for children with ADHD. Amen recommends that anyone with ADHD avoid these substances: (1) Artificial colors, especially red and yellow (2) Food additives such as aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), and nitrites.” (


According to Jacobson and Schardt (2008), the results of two decades of research have showed that there is a strong association between intake of artificial food coloring and hyperactivity. Jacobson and Schardt’s publication compiles the results on several experiments which have been done over the past twenty years to test the hypothesis of Dr. Feingold. Quotations contained in Jacobson and Shcardt’s (2008) publication include:


All ten mothers and four

of seven fathers rated

their children’s behavior

better on the reduced additive diet.



“[Controlled studies] did indicate a limited

positive association between defined

 [Feingold type] diets and a decrease in hyperactivity.”

NIH 1982 Consensus Conference



“[A modified diet] did

seem to make a remarkable

difference to the lives of

many of these families.”

Joseph Egger et al.


“These data support the

hypothesis that in a subgroup of

children with attention deficit

hyperactivity disorder certain foods

may not only influence clinical

symptoms but may also alter brain

electrical activity.”

T. Uhlig et al.












In conclusion, the Feingold diet is an effective way of reducing hyperactivity in children. The claims made by Dr. B. F Feingold in the 1970s have proven to be valid; as countless experimenters have replicated his work numerous times in multiple settings. Therefore, an easy solution to aid parents whose children experience hyperkinetic symptoms would be to enroll in the Feingold program, change their child’s eating habits and finally look forward to behavior modification.



Bateman, B., Warner, J. O., Hutchison, E., Dean, T., Rowlandson, P. R., Grant, C., et al. 
   (2004). The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population samples of preschool children. Archive of Disease in Childhood, 89, 506 - 511. 
Brenner, A. (1977, July). A Study of the Efficacy of the Feingold Diet on Hyperkinetic 
               Children. Clinical Pediatrics, 17(7), 652 - 656. 
Feingold, B. F. (1982, November). The Role of Diet in Behaviour. Ecology of Disease, 
               1(2), 153 - 165. 
Goyette, G. H., Connors, C. K., Petti, T. A., & Curtis, L. E. (1978, April). Effects of 
artificial colors on hyperkinetic children; a double-blind challenge study. Psychopharmacology Bulletin, (2), 39 - 40. 
Gross, M. D., Tofanelli, R. A., Butzrius, S. M., & Snodgrass, E. W. (1985). The Effect of 
Diets Rich in and Free from Additives on the Behavior of Children with Hyperkinetic and Learning Disorders. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 53 - 55.
Jacoson, M. F., & Shardt, D. (2008). 2008 Update on Food Dyes and Behavior. Diet, 
               ADHD, and Behavior, 3, 1 - 35. 



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