The relationship between diet and children’s behavior has long been a subject of interest and concern for parents, psychologists, and sociologists. The debate surrounding this topic gained momentum in the 1960s when Dr. Benjamin Feingold, an American allergist, noticed improvements in both skin conditions and behavior when certain ingredients were eliminated from children’s diets. This discovery and subsequent research have shed light on the influence of food additives and other factors on children’s behavior.


Let’s have a close look at the discovery.

The role of food additives and other factors in shaping children’s behavior

The Feingold Hypothesis:


Dr. Benjamin Feingold’s observations of the positive effects of eliminating certain ingredients from children’s diets sparked a significant breakthrough in understanding the link between food and behavior. He proposed that food additives, including colorings, preservatives, and salicylates, could be responsible for behavioral changes in children. Although his hypothesis was groundbreaking, further research was needed to confirm and expand his findings.


Research Findings:


Researchers at Southampton University, led by Professor Jim Stevenson, conducted studies on the impact of food additives on children’s behavior. Their research suggested a connection between specific additives and increased hyperactivity in otherwise normal children, particularly those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While the effects were considered statistically significant, it is worth noting that the overall impact was relatively small.


Criticism and Further Investigations:


Critics of Professor Stevenson’s research pointed out that using a mixture of six additives in the study made it difficult to determine which particular additives were responsible for the observed behavioral changes. However, the study did provide additional evidence supporting Feingold’s claims and underscored the need for further investigation.


Insights from Immunologist Professor Rob Loblay:


Professor Rob Loblay, Sydney’s Royal Prince Clinic immunologist, also supports Dr. Feingold’s findings. His research suggests that modifying a child’s diet appropriately can lead to noticeable changes in behavior. Loblay’s studies have focused on artificial additives and naturally occurring chemicals, such as salicylates found in plants. Although not considered an allergy, sensitivity to salicylates can contribute to behavioral problems in some children. Gluten, on the other hand, has shown minimal associations with behavioral issues in Loblay’s experience.


Implications for Parents:


Given the research indicating that food additives can affect children’s behavior, parents are encouraged to be mindful of their child’s diet. Significant improvements in hyperactive behavior have been observed by removing colorings and additives from children’s meals. A government-funded study has further supported these claims, highlighting that chemicals added to children’s foods can cause behavior changes in up to a quarter of children.




In conclusion, the link between diet and children’s behavior continues to be an ongoing research and discussion area. While the exact mechanisms behind these connections may require further exploration, evidence suggests that certain food additives can impact behavior, particularly in children with ADHD. As parents, it is crucial to observe any behavior changes in our children and consider whether diet could contribute, prompting us to make informed choices that support their overall well-being.


By understanding and addressing the potential influence of diet on children’s behavior, we can create an environment that nurtures their development and helps them thrive to their fullest potential.