The Feingold diet involves the elimination of artificial colors and flavors as well as other food additives as a potential way to resolve a number of behavioral and cognitive difficulties. This diet is based on the premise that allergic reactions or sensitivities to certain components of foods may contribute to the symptoms of certain medical conditions.
Dr. Benjamin Feingold, the founder of the Feingold diet, was a pediatrician and allergist in San Francisco, California in the United States. While working with patients who were allergic to aspirin, he found that some of them reacted both physically and behaviorally to certain foods and food additives. In 1973, Feingold proposed that salicylates, artificial colors, and artificial flavors may cause hyperactivity in children. He suggested a diet free of these chemicals, and named it the KP diet. The media then changed this name to the Feingold diet.
This diet may help children diagnosed with hyperkinesis or hyperactivity. When present with other symptoms, hyperactivity is a symptom of attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many parents of children with ADD or ADHD adopt this diet for their children.
Advocates of this diet also claim that asthma, bedwetting, ear infections, eye-muscle disorders, seizures, sleep disorders, stomach aches, and other conditions may respond to the Feingold program. Sensitivity to synthetic additives and/or salicylates may be a factor in antisocial traits, compulsive aggression, self-mutilation, difficulty in reasoning, stuttering, and excessive clumsiness. There is currently conflicting evidence regarding the effectiveness of the Feingold diet in treating these conditions. The etiology (origin) of disorders that the Feingold diet claims to benefit, such as ADD and ADHD, are also the subject of vigorous debate in the scientific community.
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The Feingold Association of the United States (FAUS) is a non-profit membership based program, which guides dieters in the use of the Feingold diet. Adherence to this diet may require lifestyle and eating pattern changes. Both children and adults may follow the Feingold diet, although current available evidence has not evaluated the long-term safety and efficacy in these groups. The Feingold diet has varied and inconsistent support by medical doctors and naturopathic physicians.
The recommendations of this diet advise a two-stage plan. The first stage involves eliminating artificial colors and flavors, certain antioxidants, aspirin-containing products, and foods containing natural salicylates. After 4 to 6 weeks in this first stage, if an improvement occurs, certain foods may be reintroduced. The reintroduction of foods typically occurs one at time, and in moderation, during the second stage of this diet. This stage lasts until it is determined which, if any, of the eliminated products can be reintroduced.
Salicylate-containing foods that are eliminated may include cherries, cloves, tangerines, berries, coffee, plums, apricots, cucumbers, tea, apples, currants, tomatoes, peaches, oranges, almonds, pears, nectarines, grapes, raisins, grapefruit, green peppers, and prunes. Because most vitamin C containing fruits and vegetables are eliminated, this diet may require supplementation. A qualified healthcare provider should be consulted before making decisions about diets and/or health conditions.
Additives and other ingredients that are typically avoided include adipic acid, antioxidants, BHA (bishydroxyanisoile), BHT (bishydroxytoluene), benzoates, carminic acid, cochineal, colorings, concentrates, corn syrup, nitrites, sulfur dioxide, and sulfites.
This diet does not eliminate sugar or junk food specifically, but does encourage moderation of these food types. However, elimination of junk food that contains multiple synthetic additives is recommended.
Certain over the counter and prescription drugs, as well as mouthwash, toothpaste, cough drops, and various non-food products may have to be avoided to adhere to the elimination of certain additives.
The majority of foods included in this diet can be purchased at a neighborhood supermarket. However, it may be necessary to shop at a health food store in order to buy items such as natural toothpastes or lollipops that are free of artificial colors or flavors. There are also mail-order suppliers and websites that cater to individuals using the Feingold diet.
A sample day on the Feingold diet may include:
Breakfast: One cup whole grain cereal, ½ cup 2% milk, two slices whole grain toast, two teaspoons butter.
Lunch: One cup vegetable soup with barley (without tomato), one jack cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, one cup milk (2% fat), two oatmeal cookies.
Dinner: Three oz. chicken breast, one baked apple, one dinner roll, two teaspoons butter, one cup low-fat milk, 1/2 cup pudding.