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Sugary drinks, artificial colors drain the brain

Gerald w. Deas M.D. | , Mph | 3/18/2013, 12:08 p.m.
Halloween will make your child scream

For the past 10 years, I have been fighting the beverage industry concerning the high sugar and artificial color content of the drinks that are bought by our children daily at local neighborhood stores. The beverages are known as "quarter water" because of the cost per plastic bottle. The high sugar content is known to cause hyperactivity and behavioral problems. The drinks are also loaded with many additives other than sugar, such as a chemical known as metabisulfite, which can trigger asthmatic attacks.

Children who are exposed to these highly colored sugary drinks are diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder (ADD) and are placed in special education classes and given drugs to calm them down. It is unfortunate that these drinks are sold mainly in the African-American and Hispanic communities. Often youngsters who drink highly chemical drinks refer to them as "crack juice," due to the fact that it makes children act like they are crazy.

I commend Mayor Michael Bloomberg in bringing to our attention the amount of high fructose in sugary drinks and trying to pass a law to help reduce obesity in both children and adults. I suggest that the Board of Education also advocate for better diets and less sugar consumed by our youngsters, which may be the cause of their failure as students. Success has been achieved through the work of former state Sen. Serphin Maltese, who sponsored a bill to eliminate sulfites from these drinks. It was passed and helped reduce the incidence of asthma in children.

How do your children behave at home, at play and at school? Does their behavior leave a lot to be desired? Research has shown that food additives such as sugar, food coloring and other chemicals may cause some children to experience poor health, poor learning and unacceptable behavior.

Recently, I was speaking with an elementary school teacher about the snacks and drinks that children bring to school in their lunch bags. She stated that some children who bring junk foods to school have difficulty learning and usually exhibit behaviorial problems.

Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a noted allergist, believes that sugar and other food additives can cause behavioral and other learning problems in children. A recent report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest identified 17 studies suggesting that diet may adversely affect the behavior of at least some children. Most of the studies focused on artificial colors in foods consumed by children. These behavioral problems cited may include an inability to concentrate and restlessness, which could contribute to difficulty with schoolwork.

In the African-American, Latino and low-income white communities, many children are drinking intensely concentrated, sweetened, colored drinks and eating ice pops with the same ingredients. The ingredients listed on the labels of these drinks--artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, BHA, BHT, and TBHQ--could spell danger to those children who might be sensitive to these substances. Reports indicate that African-American children experience a greater frequency of asthma attacks than any other race.

Additionally, excessive sugar intake contributes to obesity, tooth decay and even diabetes in those genetically at risk for the disease. High sugar diets may also inhibit the eating of more nutritious foods.