The 5% notion

young woman with magnifying glass isolated on a white background

The 5% claim has been around for many years. Critics say that “studies show” that the Feingold Diet helps only 5% (or 2% or 1%) of the children who use it. They generally don’t cite any studies to support this, which is

understandable, since there aren’t any. Often, the source cited is a report from a 1982 National Institutes of Health panel which examined the research from the late 1970s through 1981. The panel concluded that while the Feingold Diet is a valid option for the treatment of hyperactivity, the then-existing studies did not support the clinical reports of 60 to 70% success. However, the panel said, the studies were flawed as most of them focused on dyes only, ignoring other aspects of the diet, such as artificial flavors, preservatives and salicylates. “Therefore, these controlled challenge studies do not appear to have addressed adequately the role of diet in hyperactiviey.” [See Defined Diets and Childhood Hyperactivity, published by the NIH]. 1982 was years ago.  Newer, better designed studies have shown a success rate between 58% and 81% depending upon the design of the study. Interestingly, one early study from the University of Wisconsin showed a 100% success rate.

Who improves on the Feingold Diet?

bar-chartDepending on how well the diet was designed, more than 50% to more than 90% of children responded well. In some of these studies, the researchers followed up implementation of the Feingold-type diet with a double-blind challenge using only very small amounts of one or a mix of food dyes. They had been told to use no more than 27 mg by the food additive industry organization calling itself the “Nutrition Foundation,” and some used far less. If they didn’t get results from their challenge, instead of concluding that the challenge didn’t work, they strangely concluded that the diet didn’t work. Oddly, this was occurring at the same time that the National Research Council had already published the 1977 Survey of 12,000 people on the Use of Food Additives, which concluded that children were eating up to more than 300 mg food dyes per day. Because the researchers used different amounts of food dye in their studies, they got different results.  Doctors may even tell you that the research doesn’t show anything because it is “all over the place” … but if you put the studies in order by amount of food dye used, like we did for the FDA Advisory Committee in 2011, your doctor — like the Committee members — will say, “Oh my, it is a dose-effect.”  See the charts of studies done both ways here

How to design a really bad study    61799045








This is a tongue-in-cheek examination of a real study that illustrates how bad science can be done while looking credible, getting published, and giving erroneous results. The facts are all true, but do not try this at home.

Some of the Research