Artificial food colouring and hyperactivity symptoms in children

Prescrire Int. 2009 Oct;18(103):215.


(1) A hypothesis has been proposed that artificial food colourings have a role in exacerbating hyperactive behavior in children; (2) A placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover clinical study in 297 children representative of the general population showed higher hyperactivity scores during the periods when they were ingesting food colourings; (3) A meta-analysis of 15 double-blind clinical trials that evaluated artificial food colouring in children already considered to be hyperactive showed an increase in their hyperactive behavior; (4) In practice, even though the mechanism underlying this phenomenon has not be elucidated, these data suggest that it is best to avoid exposing children to artificial food coloring.

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / chemically induced*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Food Additives / adverse effects*
  • Food Coloring Agents / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Motor Activity


  • Food Additives
  • Food Coloring Agents