Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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

November 7, 2013    By Adrienne

{Today I have the pleasure of introducing to you Ruth Almon, of Paleo Diet Basics.  Ruth 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 the gut. 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?

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.


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.


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.}

source: WholeNewMom

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The Dark Side of Food Colors

Michelle Schoffro Cook    May 10, 2013

The next time you’re at a child’s birthday party, notice the beautiful array of cakes, cookies, and cupcakes, all showcasing a rainbow assortment of artificial colors.  While they may make these sweets look appetizing to children, these synthetic ingredients often take the place of nutrition in foods.  For example, fruit juice that contains colors is typically devoid of any fruit, making it artificially-colored sugar water.  Worse than that, many food colors are linked to hyperactivity disorders and cancer.

Artificial coloring is a serious problem in fast food and fake food.  A recent petition by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, has called for a ban on the use of artificial dyes in food.  The group has targeted its petition at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, seeking the phasing out of eight artificial food dyes linked to serious health risks.  While they have made their case based on the risks to children, I have no doubt these artificial colors are wreaking havoc on adults as well.

Many Guises

While the names of the dyes are meaningless to most people (yellow 5 or tartrazine, which is derived from coal tar, and blue 2 or indigotine, for example), their effects are not.  These toxins are commonly found in concentrated fruit juices, condiments, and some cheeses, to name a few.  An article in the Globe and Mail reported that many popular snacks such as Smarties, Froot Loops, Cheetos, Doritos, and Reeses’ Pieces simply list colors without defining whether they are from a natural or artificial source.

A Carcinogen by Any Other Name

Blue dye number 1 and 2 are linked with cancer in animal tests, while red dye number 3 causes thyroid tumors in rats.  Green dye number 3 is linked to bladder cancer, and yellow dye number 6 is linked to tumors of the kidneys and adrenal glands.  While these colors are readily used in most processed, prepared and packaged foods, what bothers me the most is that they are commonplace in the diets of children.

Most candy, cakes, cupcakes, baked goods, maraschino cherries, fruit cocktail, gelatin desserts, and soft drinks contain these harmful substances, which serve no other purpose than to make so-called food look “pretty” and attract children whose bodies are particularly sensitive to them during the developmental years.

While those in the natural health and nutrition fields are aware of the dangers of these dyes, it appears a 2007 study in The Lancet, a reputable, mainstream medical journal, brought wider attention to this health concern.  Health Canada, the federal government health department in Canada has stated that it has begun to require the lebeling of colors in food using the specific name, but that doesn’t get the toxins out of the food.  Knowing what it is doesn’t make it less dangerous, only avoidable for those who both read the label and know what to look out for.  And, I don’t see too many eight-year-olds reading labels.  Not many adults do either.

The food industry must be accountable for the ingredients they use and strong disincentives are needed to keep dangerous additives and artificial colors out of the food supply, particularly as many are known carcinogens.

source: Care2.com

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Evening Primrose Oil for Infertility, Hyperactivity and Heart Health

Last updated December 19, 2009

Evening primrose is a small North American wildflower,Oenothera biennis, also known as tree primrose or sundrop. The oil from the seeds is the part used in medicine, and has been found useful for everything from eczema and osteoporosis to PMS.

The leaves and bark are sedative and astringent, and were used in Native American medicine for stomach, liver and female complaints. Folk medicine used the plant to treat hangovers. European settlers in the New World, named it “King’s Cure-All,” and used it to treat skin diseases.

One of the active ingredients in evening primrose oil is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), and Evening Primrose is one of the few plants to contain this important fatty acid. Borage also contains gamma-linolenic acid. GLA functions by helping production of prostaglandins (PFE1). Prostaglandins help reduce inflammation. Prostaglandins are important for many other body functions as well, including the clotting of blood, and cholesterol production. The body can manufacture gamma-linolenic acid if it has adequate supply of one of the essential fatty acids: linolenic acid. But this mechanism is frequently stalled as a result of dietary deficiencies, insufficient enzymes and too much intake of processed, saturated fat. The oil contains about 280 mg. of GLA in 2,600 mg. of the oil, which is considered the basic therapeutic dose.

Many health conditions are known to benefit from gamma-linolenic acid, including allergies, multiple sclerosis, fibrocystic breast disease, arthritis, and even depression.

Evening Primrose oil has also shown effectiveness in treating alcoholism and for weight control. The oil reduces withdrawal symptoms from alcohol as well as depression. In weight control, the oil stimulates brown fat tissue to burn more calories.

Skin Health
A study conducted at the Samsung Medical Center School of Medicine in Korea showed evening primrose oil to be highly effective in treating eczema. Dermatitis patients suffering from dry, itchy, and scaly skin displayed less pruritus and lesions when supplemented with evening primrose oil. The study determined that evening primrose oil is effective in treating non-inflammatory dermatitis, acne, psoriasis, as well as eczema.

Heart Health
Evening primrose oil has been shown to reduce high serum cholesterol and to lower blood pressure. The mechanism is via the gamma-linolenic acid’s ability to inhibit blood clots and reduce risk of spasms in the arteries, both of which contribute to heart attacks or strokes. Lowered levels of PGE1 lead to elevated cholesterol levels, and even changes in the blood sugar levels that cause diabetes-like symptoms.

Hyperactivity in Children
A study with evening primrose oil in children showed its effectiveness in treating hyperactivity. Two-thirds of the children in the study showed improvement in their school behavior after supplementation with evening primrose oil. The supplementation was given orally and on the skin, and some of the best results were found when the oil was rubbed onto the childrens’ skin. Researchers surmise that this method of administering the oil was more effective because it overrode any issues of indigestion or malnutrition.

Immune System
Another interesting function of GLA is in its ability to aid immune response. GLA and other essential fatty acids are part of the chain of nutrients that create interferons. Interferons (IFNs) are proteins that are created by the cells to fight viruses.

Fertility and PMS

Evening primrose oil has a marked effect on the female hormonal system. Low levels of GLA have been shown to trigger symptoms of PMS, and the oil has been touted as a fertility aid, because it encourages the production of cervical mucus, which can assist fertilization. It has also been prescribed to lower the risk of preeclampsia and eclampsia in pregnancy.

Mild side effects of evening primrose oil consumption can include nausea, diarrhea, and headaches. People taking blood-thinning drugs should avoid evening primrose oil, as well as those who are pregnant or who are taking drugs for epilepsy or schizophrenia, because of possible drug interactions.