Food Additives and Paying Attention: Minor Connection

c_thomas_wild at my-deja.com c_thomas_wild at my-deja.com
Tue Jul 27 16:01:22 EST 1999

Can a handful of food additives including tartrazine (FD&C Yellow Food
Color No. 5) and the artificial sweetener, sodium saccharin, affect the
ability to pay attention/concentrate in a very small subpopulation of
those with ADHD?  Apparently the answer is yes.  The most reliable
account of this happening is contained in a 1981 book titled How to
Cure Hyperactivity:  A Blueprint Involving Nutrition - More Than A
Theory by C. Thomas Wild with Anita Uhl Brothers, M.D., of Berkeley,
California.  This book (ADHD autobiography) is available through the
national library system.  Dr. Brothers, M.D., strongly believes in the
value of full ingredient disclosure in food and drugs so that the
handful of persons extremely sensitive to some chemicals can choose to
avoid them if they want.  Extreme sensitivity to tartrazine has been
estimated by the Canadian Federal Government to occur at a rate of
about 1 in 10,000 or less and well-documented accounts like the above
are considered to be extremely rare.  For some reason the vast majority
of people do not react one way or the other to tartrazine (FD&C Yellow
Color No. 5) but again, a handful do.  Dr. Brothers, M.D., also
believes the tartrazine reaction is simply an extreme chemical
sensitivity vs a classical allergy.  Again, Dr. Brothers, M.D. believes
it is important to emphasize only a small group of persons react this
way (certainly not everyone).  Reactions to tartrazine can vary from
actually improving concentration and visualization and attention span to
no reaction at all to adverse reactions like causing seizures in
persons who never had seizures before in their lives (so responses are
known to vary widely where the largest group simply does not appear to
react to tartrazine at all).  Dr. Brothers' account is about a positive
reaction to tartrazine where the tartrazine acted very much like CNS
stimulants (like caffeine, Ritalin, Dexedrine and other medicines) and
was considered positive but surprising as the tartrazine clearly worked
more like a very, very powerful undisclosed drug vs an inert ingredient
simply used for coloring).  ADHD = Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder syndrome.

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