Updated: 09/19/2017
By Summer Banks Aug 10, 2017

What is the Feingold hypothesis? It’s the main principle of the Feingold Diet, but we wanted to know more.We delved head first into the food list, potential side effects, and scientific research. Plus, the diet plan’s been around for decades, so we read the thoughts of hundreds of dieters. Then, we put it together to give you the facts you need.

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What is The Feingold Diet?

To start off, the Feingold Diet is a program designed to help kids with ADHD; in fact, its nickname is the ADHD Diet. The diet eliminates certain chemicals and food additives which may exacerbate learning disabilities in children. Some studies have been done finding that benzoate preservatives and artificial food coloring promote hyperactive behavior in young children. This diet lists food additives to avoid, such as Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, Green No. 3 and Blue No. 2.

The diet was created by Benjamin Feingold after a study was conducted in the 1970’s which appeared to connect food additives with hyperactivity. The diet doesn’t so much limit food items as it does food items with harmful additives. You can find information on this diet online. We like what we see so far from dieter reviews at first glance.

Effectiveness – “Does It Work?”

The first issue we wanted to tackle was the effectiveness of the Feingold Diet. “The first thing you think about when you read up on this diet is effectiveness,” said our Research Editor, “especially when it’s geared towards children.”

“We made the changes that were suggested, but found no effect on our child’s behavior,” said one review.

“We did this program for five years. The improvements we save only occurred after we eliminated everything from our child’s diet except rice. It’s not Feingold success to eliminate everything you eat and then say, see, it works,” said another.

There is no shortage of positive reviews out there, “This diet has been a life changer for my family ever since 1996.”

Feingold Diet Food List – “Restrictive?”

The second issue we found with the Feingold Diet was with food restriction. It claims you can eat anything you want, as long as it doesn’t have harmful additives, but in today’s world that seems virtually impossible. “I’m at a loss as to what to give my ADHD four-year-old. All the fruits that he loves are all forbidden. He is a slave to routine and refuses to eat breakfast without his daily dose of strawberries, blueberries, and bananas,” said one concerned reviewer.

“It is VERY difficult to follow this diet in a family where only one child might need it. Personally, I believe that following your kid around and critiquing every morsel of food that goes into his mouth, drives everyone crazy,” said another.

There’s always a positive to every negative, “We started this last Thursday and today, Tuesday, we’ve already seen tremendous improvement in his ability to focus and stay on task. He, also, doesn’t fidget as much and he’s calmer,” raved one parent.

In all of our years of experience we can safely say that it only takes one small glitch to completely ruin the chances for real results. If the Feingold Diet is ineffective or too restrictive, it could be a huge obstacle.

The Science – “Evidence on Efficacy?”

The research here is rather contradictory. Although there have been studies backing this diet, one more recent study appeared to debunk some of this research. It concluded, “research has not validated the Feingold hypothesis…diet modification should be questioned.” The evidence here seems to be mixed, and while there is nothing concrete, there is some research showing that children who are genetically predisposed to specific food coloring will benefit from this diet, but the evidence is weak.

The Bottom Line – Does the Feingold Diet Work?

Whether it works or not, there are enough positive reviews from dieters and parents who say that does. We do love the idea behind it, and the outpouring of positive comments is a plus. We like that there’s an eating plan focused on children. But, our concerns relate to its effectiveness for adults. There’s little information showing it works for older individuals.

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Summer Banks Dietspotlight Author
About the Author:

Summer Banks, Director of Content at Dietspotlight, has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with doctors specializing in weight loss and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University. full bio.

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