Popular Diets
The Feingold Diet

The Feingold diet is a food elimination program developed by Ben F. Feingold, MD to treat hyperactivity...

Dr. Benjamin Feingold

Dr. Benjamin Feingold in popular diets

Dr. Benjamin Feingold, dieting pioneer for hyperactive children.

Dr. Feingold was a pediatrician and allergis. His diet eliminates several artificial colors and artificial flavors, aspartame, three petroleum-based preservatives, and some salicylates. This is one controversial program. Some say that it effectively manages ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) while others claim that it is worthless. This debate has been going on for over 30 years. Interested parties include consumers and physicians, as well as scientists, politicians, and the pharmaceutical and food industries. Aspartame is one item under discussion so we are talking big bucks. This artificial sweetener appears in some 6,000 different consumer foods and beverages. The Feingold program asserts that Aspartame and its related chemicals may be harmful to the nervous system.

During the initial weeks of the Program, certain foods containing salicylates are removed and may later be reintroduced and tested for tolerance, one at a time. Problematic salicylate-rich foods include common fruits, a few vegetables, spices, and one tree nut. When starting this diet foods like pears, cashews and bananas replace apples, almonds and grapes. The program does not eliminate soft drinks, chocolate and sugar but does call for moderation.

In 1965 one of Dr. Feingold’s first diet cases involved an adult patient suffering from severe hives and undergoing personality disorder treatment. He prescribed a low-salicylate diet that eliminated synthetic coloring and flavoring. The patient’s hives disappeared and perhaps surprisingly her behavior clearly improved. This case led him to prescribe the diet for children with behavioral problems as well as allergies. The diet is said to help hyperactive and learning disabled children. An early reported success rate was 33%, which may sound low. However, these children did not respond to any other treatment.

In the largest study to date, published in 1986, the performance of over a million New York City public school children was studied for seven years. The children's average standardized test scores rose 8.1% when levels of sucrose (normal table sugar) were restricted and removal of two synthetic food colors. The next academic year when the remaining food colors and all artificial flavors were removed their performance rose by 3.8%. The following academic year no dietary changes occurred and test performance remained stable. In the next academic year the petroleum-based preservatives BHT and BHA were removed and performance improved another 3.7%. All the children did not improve equally. There was a dramatic decline in the number of learning disabled and repeat-failure children. In 1979, about one child in eight performed at least two grades below his or her proper level. Four years later this number dropped to one out of twenty. Before the dietary changes, the more school food the children ate, the worse they did academically. After the changes were made, the more school food the children ate, the better they did academically.

Feingold cookbook in popular diets

Lots of delicious, nutritious recipes in the Feingold cookbook.

Over the years, many people have criticized the Feingold Program. Criticisms include the difficulty of avoiding synthetic additives, especially in processed or fast food or while eating out, and the alleged social and emotional side effects caused by the diet. Some critics say that the Feingold Program requires a significant change in family lifestyle and eating patterns. They claim families are limited to a narrow selection of often expensive foods, which must be prepared "from scratch", greatly increasing the time and effort needed to prepare meals. In response, the Feingold Association publishes a Foodlist & Shopping Guide providing thousands of acceptable choices including many readily available convenience foods. It also furnishes a Fast Food & Restaurant Guide. Parents are encouraged to keep treats on-hand at home and school to assure that the children never feel deprived or left out.

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