My 7yo son headbangs and headbutts with annatto.  Actually he generally becomes a right little monster with it.  I avoid it like the plague.  I sometimes will allow other additives in small amounts if I absolutely have to, but I will not allow annatto under any circumstances after the last episode with it.

When did he first start head banging? He never was a child that had particularly bad behaviour.  I only took all the additives to see what would happen, and now that he is additive free, I get exceptionally bad behavioural spikes with additives.  Some additives he can tolerate small amounts of, and some there is now pretty much a zero tolerance level, eg sodium benzoate in medicines.  He didn't really head bang as an ongoing thing, but on occasion in the middle of a tantrum or when he was particularly frustrated he would do it at the age of about 2 or 3.  He also appears to be gifted, I am thinking of having him assessed.  It had stopped until I saw the annatto effects in January.

Which products (e.g.  yoghurt, ice cream) have you noticed are a problem?  I have only seen a reaction that I am absolutely sure was due to annatto involving headbanging once, and that product was Magnum Minis.  As soon as I attended your talk last year, I stopped my kids having additives, especially colours, immediately.  I did give him ice cream once that had annatto, and we had some issues at school on the Monday, but he had also had artificial colours, preservatives and flavour enhancers that weekend (we were away and I thought it would be ok for the weekend, discovered I was wrong!) so I can't be sure that he did react to the annatto then.  There was no head banging after that weekend, but he did punch someone.  That appears to be a reaction in him to flavour enhancers and preservatives as a general rule though.

How did you first realise that annatto was causing the problem?  He has been additive free since July 2010, and this reaction happened in January 2011.  He had had no other additives other than the annatto.  He has not had annatto since, and the behaviour has not repeated.

Why do you say that “I will not allow annatto under any circumstances after the last episode”?  My aunt gave both my kids a Magnum Mini after lunch, just the plain chocolate and ice cream one, which I had not given them since starting additive free.  My son was ratty and annoying that afternoon, but I put that down to being tired, as we had had an early start flying from Sydney to Adelaide.  That night she allowed them another one after dinner.  The next day, I was at the supermarket, and my son and daughter had a disagreement about something, and he just lost it and headbutted her, followed by headbutting the shelves and the floor of the supermarket, and proceeded to follow me around the shop screaming at me, and headbutting several shelves along the way.  No amount of talking or threatening of punishment had any effect.  I told him that I was leaving and walked out of the shop, and about 5 minutes later he came screaming out looking for me because he realised he had no idea where he was, and he headbutted my leg.  I physically restrained him in his car seat and waited 10 minutes for him to stop thrashing and screaming.  He was generally painful for the next 24 hours.  He had not behaved like that since he was 2.  I knew there was annatto in the magnums, but I thought a small amount would be OK, which clearly it wasn't.  I bought chocolate coated ice creams which didn't contain the annatto, and there were no further issues.  He has not had annatto since, and we have not seen any behaviour like this again.  He really hurt his sister, she had a bruise for a week.  He had never ever headbutted another child in his life before then, and his sister is half his size.  I'm not willing to risk that again, so I check everything that could possibly contain annatto before he has it, yoghurt, cheese, ice cream, margarine etc.

Any further observations? Flavour enhancers make him aggressive.  Preservatives appear to remove his impulse control.  Artificial colours make him hyperactive and aggressive.  But none of them make him behave the way he did after the annatto.  After that episode, I would rather give him any other additive than annatto.  I can usually overcome issues that the other additives cause, but not the annatto.

I only did the diet to see what would happen.  He wasn't a particularly badly behaved child, he was challenging, but he could be gifted, so challenge is part of that.  Now that I have stopped the additives, I can see the sorts of problems that other people have, because he appears to be rather sensitive to them now.  He is a more calm and reasonable child, and is certainly better behaved than most kids I know.  His behaviour didn't stand out compared to the other kids before, but it certainly does now, he is much better than other children, and I can see the effects of the additives in other kids now that I didn't see before.

Another interesting thing I noticed when I stopped the additives is that he lost over 2kg in weight in about 6 months.  He was a small, skinny child to start with (he was 19kg when I started the diet, dropped to 16.7kg, and now is 19.4kg), and the weight just fell off him.  It took him a further 6 months to catch it back up, and he eats like a horse, and has done since I stopped the additives.

Thank you for everything you do, you are amazing - Alice (report received December 2011)