I first heard of the low salicylate diet as the Feingold Diet in 1975. It was summarised in a journal piece about 10cm by 10 cm! Feingold had used the low salicylate diet that was used by Dermatologists for urticaria rashes. Do contact me if you are interested in all the early research articles which I carefully collected and would love all that information to be held by someone who is particularly interested in how the thinking changed over time. I would be happy to provide it to someone whose interest includes all of my current books [available from my site] for just the cost of postage.
The concept that diet could affect behaviour is not new. As early as 1922 behavioural or “neuropathic” changes due to food “allergy” implicating milk and chocolate had been described, and reports continued throughout the century. The main controversy began in 1973 when an allergist named Ben Feingold said that diet caused hyperactivity. He implicated artificial colours and flavours, just two preservatives BHA and BHT, and similar-shaped natural substances called salicylates, present in most fruit especially tomatoes. He used data from an analysis done in 1922! Monosodium glutamate [MSG] was mentioned but not emphasised. His K-P diet was clearly defined and so appeared easy to test. However his exclusions raised questions about other additives and other foods thought to contain salicylates.
In 1974 Dr Joan Woodhill, an Australian dietitian researching the diet also excluded all essences, including vanilla and lemon oil, all essential oils, all herbs and spices, coloured stock cubes and soups. Additional fruits excluded were blackcurrants, redcurrants, grapefruit, lemons, capsicum, coconut, and melons. In 1976 she further excluded all stock cubes, chocolate [drinks were still allowed]. Non food items she also found needed exclusion were perfume and fly spray, petrol, and felt pen smells.
I began investigating diet in hyperactive children in 1975 using Joan Woodhill’s diet. In 1977 I reported reactions to foods in addition to those excluded by Dr Woodhill. These included milk, wheat, potatoes, bananas, zucchini and peanuts in some individuals, as well as coloured chicken feed via eggs. Around that time Clinical Ecology, the study of adverse reactions to all aspects of the environment e.g. gas and petrol fumes, had become established, broadening the environmental substances that were suspect.
In 1977 Dr Richard Mackarness, a British Psychiatrist, published a book called ‘Not all in the mind’ describing psychiatric symptoms due to intake of any grains. He advocated a “cave man diet” excluding them. In correspondence after that I had a letter from Feingold saying that it was additives not grains that produced improvement with exclusion, and another from Mackarness saying it the other way around!
I had a food company make up a “nature identical” mango flavoured, colour free soft drink. Unfortunately, and to their disappointment, families reported it producing adverse reactions. I also learned that flavours are added to foods in ten times the dose of colours! This had important implications for the initial research into the Feingold hypothesis which only used dye in challenges.
In 1980 Minchin bought out a book, ‘Food for thought’, implicating milk as the source of many childhood problems, and also in that year Schauss implicated sugar in his book ‘Diet Crime and Delinquency’. He also implicated poor nutrition and encouraged megavitamin therapy. Neither sugar or nutrition proved relevant.
Woodhill had shown that Feingold’s diet needed modification. So, from the earliest days, as a dietitian, I was asking if the diet was right. I instructed parents to regard it as they would any new treatment and give me feedback. We called diet investigation “Diet Detective Work”. Along with Dr Joan Woodhill and some NZ researchers, I found that there was individual variation in tolerance to the Feingold exclusions, as well as reports of reactions to chocolate and milk, corned beef, pineapple juice, monosodium glutamate [MSG], and anything that smelled strongly, from house paint to jasmine flowers. Diet therapy had to incorporate the concept of individual variation in tolerance to various food chemicals, such as amines, and to whole foods, such as milk, to which children may be allergic. With the new addition of allergy an awareness that inhalant allergies could be relevant made parent reports of increases in adverse reactions in pollen season more explicable. With the feedback from parents the diet sheets came to contain allowed and disallowed foods, as well as use occasionally and use very occasionally foods.
To read more of this interesting story including thinking happening by overseas researchers see Chap 2 in Are You Food Sensitive? http://foodintolerancepro.com/buy-food-sensitivity-products/ You may be enjoy more interesting detail in my thesis which covers thinking about the role of diet in children’s behaviour in very early days gradually changing up until the 1970s when the interest increased greatly http://foodintolerancepro.com/product/thesis/ when I recorded just what the children reacted to when I followed up 112 children carefully over 18 months. It wasn’t just additives they reacted to.