Corn, the Hidden Cause for Children’s Bad Behavior?

Katie Pickett

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and do not necessarily represent those of KCP.

We all know that sugar and certain chemicals cause kids to go nuts sometimes. Parents avoid the sugar-highs and lows as much as possible to eliminate tantrums and emotional explosions.
However, recent studies have found that there may be a hidden culprit causing defiant and bad behavior. That sneaky ingredient is corn.
I came across an article on my news feed the other day concerning this topic, and I couldn’t help digging in and doing more research.

There is an incredible amount of personal experience and stories of families who’ve realized corn seems to be the cause of their child’s bad behavior.
This, at least for me, is quite vague, as children can behave abnormally during growth spurts, they are learning to manage new emotions, and they overall go through stages of behavior changes that ebb and flow as they mature. BUT, these stories do resonate and hold true for some. In this blog, a mother discusses the diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and her suspicion to corn as the trigger based on her experience. When her son was exhibiting defiant and unruly behavior, she witnessed that the issue was mostly gone because they avoided ‘Corn’ like “the plague.”

Where will you find corn in foods?

    • There is a long list of ingredients from corns that ends up in your food. Here’s a good amount to look for:
  • dextrin
  • dextrose
  • maltodextrin
  • maltodextrose
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • corn starch
  • modified starch
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • xanthum gum
  • guar gum
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol
  • MSG
  • GDL

Its a long list of additives that are corn-based, and not all of them are even labeled in foods, so it is a very difficult decision to avoid corn altogether, but it is possible.

Okay, let’s look at some studies correlating food additives (most are corn) and children’s behavior. Medscape discusses some fantastic studies, which is summed up in this statement:

The most recent studies of the effects of specific food additives and/or preservatives on child behavior have been conducted using double-blind, placebo-controlled, challenge crossover designs with children who have a history of atopy or parent-reported adverse reactions to food additives, but do not necessarily meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Selection bias continued to be a problem in these studies due to attrition, with possible overrepresentation by families interested in hyperactivity. Children did, however, demonstrate increased behavioral symptoms when challenged with artificial flavors, most notably tartrazine and preservatives such as calcium propionate (Bateman, Warner, Hutchison, Dean, Rowlandson, et al., 2004; Dengate & Ruben, 2002; Rowe & Rowe, 1994).

Simply, there is a link to behavioral changes when food additives are introduced. Further studies, like the one conducted by Schab and Trinh (2004) focuses specifically on the effect of artificial food colors on hyperactivity. These authors employed hypotheses that were more explicit and rigorous, consisting of only double-blind placebo-controlled trials, including 6 trials conducted subsequent to the earlier analysis, and used statistical techniques that more richly exploit the advantages of crossover trials. The results of this meta-analysis support the hypothesis that artificial food colors can contribute to symptoms of childhood hyperactivity in some children.

One psychiatrist, William Philpott, MD, an orthomolecular psychiatrist, believed that allergic reactions could result in schizophrenic behaviors: “My own practice as a psychiatrist has shown that for two hundred fifty consecutive patients, there is convincing evidence that the majority of them developed major symptoms on exposure to foods and chemicals; 92 percent of those schizophrenics developed symptoms such as maladaptive reactions to food and chemicals; 64 percent of exposure to wheat; 51 percent on exposure to corn; 51 percent on exposure to pasteurized cow’s milk; comparing to 30 percent of schizophrenics on exposure to petrochemical products develop symptoms, some so severe as to precipitate suicide.”

William Philpott’s statement is published on the Weston A Price Foundation website, a great place to visit for medical research and opinion. We’ve discussed on this blog how sugar can affect your mental health, and now we are dabbling into the effects of corn as well.
Further research gets quite frightening. It appears that the extensive amounts of chemicals added to our foods are literally making us crazy! In most of the research, the Feingold Program is mentioned, so I dove further into what that program and diet are. Dr. Ben Feingold actually began studying food allergies and behaviors back in 1965. Over the years of studies and his practice, he developed the Feingold Program to help families with their allergies and struggles. Here is his theory after years of study:

The Feingold Theory: Hyperactivity can be triggered by synthetic additives – specifically synthetic colors, synthetic flavors and the preservatives BHA, BHT (and later TBHQ) – and also a group of foods containing a natural salicylate radical. This is an immunological – not an allergic – response.

The Feingold Program is a great resource and starting point for anyone looking to find relief for behavioral problems in their children or even mood imbalances in themselves. The result of decades of the study confirms there is absolutely a correlation between our chemical sensitivities and our brains.


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