Did you know this about autism and food dyes?

At a glance

  • Some studies suggest that eating artificial food dyes is associated with hyperactivity

  • There is no proven relationship between ASD symptoms and eating food dyes

  • All kids can benefit from eating fewer processed foods and artificial ingredients

The details

For the amount that I am asked about the relationship between consuming artificial food dyes and autism symptoms, there is surprisingly very little research out there. That means everything we hear is purely anecdotal - stories from parents or rumors passed along internet.

Many families who have children with autism or ADHD eliminate artificial food dyes from the diet hoping to avoid behavior issues, however the effect of eating food dyes on autism is unclear.

One very small trial of just 20 children observed that children who ate a high amount of yellow dye had disrupted sleep, but this study did not explore other variables in the diet and environment.

The fact that there is no research doesn’t mean that a relationship doesn’t exist and it certainly doesn’t mean that your child is not sensitive to artificial dyes. This is one of those situations where you need to know your child and observe his behavior.

Unlike embarking on some other elimination diets, avoiding food dyes is pretty simple and it’s not likely to lead to any negative side effects like nutrient deficiencies. What we do know is that every child feels and behaves better when eating more unprocessed foods than processed ones. When you include more whole foods and fewer things like candy, juice, and packaged snacks, you will naturally cut back if not totally cut out artificial food dyes.

Before going cold turkey, consider the following questions:

  • What are my goals and motives for avoiding artificial food dyes?

  • Is sleep or hyperactivity areas I think my child could improve in?

  • Is this worth the effort?

  • Will cutting out foods with artificial coloring significantly limit my child’s diet or upset him greatly?

If you’re ready to get going, check out some of my preferred products. And good luck!




If you have questions about your child specifically or are interested in working with me to help optimize your child’s diet, please contact me here.


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