Smart Food


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The evidence is overwhelming�kids are what they eat, especially when it comes to brain food.

Four-year-old Harper Warren was far too busy disrupting her classmates and fidgeting to learn much at pre-school. Her teachers recommended she be assessed for ADHD, but mum Nicole had other ideas. After removing artificial preservatives, flavours and colours from Harper's diet, she became more co-operative and better able to concentrate.

"She's always been a smart child but it's definitely helping her at pre-school with her learning," Nicole said.

At least 60 additives which are currently in Australian food products can cause problems for some children. A UK study has proven certain colours and preservative can make children disruptive and unable to concentrate.

There are moves underway to have them banned across Europe, but Australian food authorities are yet to acknowledge the findings, let alone take similar action.

And it's not just about what we remove from kids food to help them learn�it's about what we need to include as well.

Professor Creswell Eastman from the Australian Centre for Iodine Deficiency Disorders believes our food authorities have been too slow to act on the certain knowledge that iodine levels are decreasing in our food and affecting our kids' brain development.

"If children are brought up in iodine deficient environments, then they lose a lot of IQ," he says. "If it's moderate to severe deficiency, they may lose 15 IQ points. Now no-one can afford to lose a few IQ points�let alone 15�so to lose 15 points on average puts you in the handicapped class," he said.

Until 10 years ago you'd find iodine in milk, because the Dairy Industry used it for cleaning milking sheds and equipment�an accidental contamination. As the Dairy Industry changed its practices, there's less iodine in our food. Iodised salt is one way to up your intake and vitamin companies started including it in pregnancy and breastfeeding supplements. But the issue has had far too little attention for Professor Eastman's liking.

"I'm seen as a critic of the food authorities in Australia," Professor Eastman says, "because in my view they have been slow to act. We're not being a clever country at the moment,".

It seems food authorities want to avoid over-regulation of the industry, but without external pressure, food producers are unlikely to change the recipe.

"If you ask a parent none of them want their children to be having these artificial things added to the food, so it might be time now to get things moving with the Government," said Pediatric Nutritionist at Westmead Children's Hospital, Susie Burrell.

Susie says while health professionals are doing more to educate patients and put pressure on Government, there are simple steps parents can take to help kids get the best fuel for their brains.

"[Kids need] at least three serves of oily fish each week. And if they don't really like the tuna, or the sardines or the salmon, at least try and give them a child-formulated fish oil supplement. Getting rid of foods that have got bright orange and yellow, pink and blue colouring is a really good starting point to getting rid of all those colours and soft drink, as a rule, needs to go�that's one of the key things we're strict on�soft drink is not appropriate for children," Susie said.

Further information on removing food additives:

On Iodine deficiency: