The Hyperactive Children’s Support Group was founded in 1977. For 40 years we have been helping children and supporting parents who are trying to cope with Hyperactive/ADHD children by offering ideas and information concerning the vital role diet and nutrition can play in their child’s wellbeing and behaviour. Before the HACSG was set up by myself and my late mother Vicky Colquhoun, I had for over 5 years been trying to find answers to the Hyperactive behaviour of my son. Miles was diagnosed severely Hyperactive by a Consultant Psychiatrist when he was two and a half. In addition to the Hyperactivity, Miles was also very thirsty, had repeated Catarrh and was a very poor sleeper. The only things offered were medications which made him so much worse. Then, a miracle! I chanced upon the work of Dr Ben Feingold in the USA. He proposed that Hyperactivity in children could be aggravated by Artificial Colourings, Flavours, certain other Additives and Salicylates (a naturally occurring Aspirin-like chemical which is in many fruits and other fresh foods). I contacted Dr Feingold and he kindly sent his diet plan which we adopted straight away. Within a week of the dietary changes there was a vast improvement. Things were altogether calmer, thirst diminished, catarrh stopped and sleep was greatly improved. The “wild look” had gone, everyone was amazed and it improved our family life beyond measure – particularly for my sons 2 older sisters. Our Health Visitor was so amazed that she asked me to help other parents; this was the beginning of the HACSG.
In 1977 the popular ‘Woman’ magazine of the time carried an article about Artificial Food Additives and questioned if they could be harmful. I made contact with the editor straight away and they wrote an article about Miles, Dr Feingold and our new organisation. Well, we were snowed under, the postman brought sacks and sacks of letters from parents, just like myself, desperate for help. We put a diet sheet together and sent out thousands of copies of the Feingold Food Programme. Many Parents got back to say what a difference the diet had made.
In 1979 HACSG achieved charitable status. We also undertook a small survey to gather data into the use of the Feingold Food Programme – this was just one small study, many more were to follow. 214 families replied to the HACSG Questionnaire 74 % reported a good response, and 16% a partial improvement.
In 1980 Dr Ben Feingold came over from the USA for a conference at the Royal Free Hospital in London – it was packed out. So many parents and professionals wanted to learn more about how what you ate affected children’s Hyperactivity. At that conference we met, the now late, Dr David Horrobin who, whilst based in Nova Scotia and Guildford, was researching the role of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), Omega 6 (in Evening Primrose Oil) for alcoholism and certain mental health conditions. As many of the Hyperactive children were often very thirsty, (we quickly discovered was a cardinal sign of a deficiency of EFAs), it was decided that the HACSG, with the help of Dr David Horrobin should undertake to research any benefits of EFAs. The findings were very encouraging.
In 1981 the research was published in Medical Hypothesis, however, it was to be another 15 years before the results was picked up by researchers in the University of Purdue, USA. Meanwhile, the HACSG sought meetings with Government Ministers, held conferences to raise awareness, and wrote countless articles, helping thousands of families around the UK and overseas. We have had the support of some really great Doctors and Researchers, too many to name here. Even Great Ormond Street Hospital setup a programme of research into the effects of dietary change for Hyperactive and ADHD Children. With Professor Neil Ward at the University of Surrey, were able to create a database which showed that 89% of the children surveyed were affected by Artificial Colourings, 71% by Artificial Preservatives and Flavours, 59% had a problem with MSG, 50% Milk, 50% Chocolate and for 45% Oranges proved to be a menace. Over the years we have collated, a great deal of the research outcomes: the Feingold diet, the role of Essential Fatty Acids, Vitamins and Minerals, fact sheets and publications, which we have been able to make available to readers through our website – of course, all thanks to generous donations and support from parents and professionals. In the last few years there has been considerable interest in the importance of healthy school meals. Celebrities like Jamie Oliver have done a great deal to draw attention to the nutritional needs of children. The Children’s Food Campaign (CFC) of which the HACSG is a member, has been working in many areas related to healthy eating and the health of children.
Since 2002 the HACSG has distributed over 20,000 ‘Hyperactivity in the Classroom’ packs to Schools and Education Authorities around the UK, outlining the role of a healthy additive free diet for all school children. In 2007 we achieved great exposure on Hyperactivity nutrition and diet issues with several articles appearing in the national press and the work of HACSG was endorsed by major retailers such as M&S and ASDA. We have also launched the ” Highest Award for Excellence in School Meals”, presenting this award to several schools however, we were particularly pleased to confer this recognition on HC3S – Hampshire County Council’s school meals provider. There has also been research by the Government to discover whether Artificial Colourings and Preservatives contributed to Hyperactivity. Only 6 out of 17 Artificial Colourings and just 1 preservative Sodium Benzoate were eliminated in the research, the outcome clearly showed that certain additives did cause Hyperactivity. However, there is so much more to be done…
It was hoped that after a few years the HACSG would no longer be needed, that there had been more than enough research carried out into the effect of Additives, Food Intolerance and Nutrition. However, NHS, Doctors and Psychiatrists still fail to actively endorse, encourage and recommend a first step dietary approach to cope with the challenges of hyperactivity / ADHD. Here we are 40 years later, still helping families where we can. HACSG 1977 -2017 Sally Bunday MBE.