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February 19, 1982

No agreement on diets for 'hyperactive' kids

JAMA. 1982;247(7):948-956. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320320006003

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Does diet have an effect on childhood hyperactivity? The question has been the subject of controversy since 1973 when Ben Feingold, MD, first proposed that it does.

Feingold, chief emeritus, Department of Allergy, Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center, San Francisco, has reported clinical observations that 40% to 50% of hyperactive children become less so when given a diet free of artificial flavorings, artificial dyes, and foods containing naturally occurring salicylates. He believes that hyperactivity is the result of "activation of the biological or genetic profile by an agent in the environment." Since the 1975 publication of his book Why Your Child Is Hyperactive (New York, Random House), thousands of parents have put their hard-to-manage hyperactive children on the Feingold diet, while a handful of investigators have conducted controlled, double-blind studies to test his hypothesis. Results have been subject to conflicting interpretations.

As recently as October 1980, a national advisory committee sponsored by