A previous research that analyzed the effects of AFCAs and benzoate preservative on preschool children's hyperactivity in a general population sample. The study suggested that the levels of hyperactivity in three-year-old children increased significantly after they received a mix of food additives.
Scientist are currently not sure whether the effect of AFCAs can be applied to older children. They, however try to answer the question if AFCAs are completely removed, will the general levels of hyperactivity in children decrease.
And increased level of hyperactivity in children may lead to developmental and educational problems, this includes problems with reading skills.
Jim Stevenson, working at the University of Southampton, UK, together with his colleagues analyzed the effects of AFCAs on changes in the behavior of children in a crossover trial that is community-based, double-blinded and placebo-controlled. Food Standards Agency (UK) were the ones to sponsor the trial. The meaning of the term "double-blind placebo trial" is that neither the observed people, nor people who give the necessary medications/products/chemicals know who of the people receives the real thing and who gets placebo.
There were 153 children three-years-old children and 144 eight-nine-years-old involved in the research. All of them drank either a drink with sodium benzoate plus 1-2 AFCA mixes, or a placebo drink. The first mix had the same ingredients that were used during the previous study. The second mix included what the average three year-old and 8-9 year old children are consuming today. The behavior of all children was estimated using a GHA (global hyperactivity aggregate). It is based on rating of both teachers and parents, together with a computerized attention test, performed only to 8-9 year-olds.
The result of the study showed that the first mix, in comparison with the placebo, had a significant negative effect on 3 year-old children in GHA. The second mix showed mixed results. Both mixes, however, if compared to the placebo, had significant negative impact on the 8-9 year old children.
"Although the use of artificial coloring in food manufacture might seem to be superfluous, the same cannot be said for sodium benzoate, which has an important preservative function. The implications of these results for the regulation of food additive use could be substantial," stated the authors of the research.
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