De e-numbers make our children antisocial and can food addictions cause tantrums?

Do the wrong dietary fats affect IQ and could the health of the gut adversely affect the human brain?

A conference in London on October 9, will explore these issues and focus on the latest research into the effects of our diet and environment on children's behaviour and learning ability.

Children's Mental Health - Feeding The Next Generation will also provide practical solutions from experienced clinicians on how to manage and, in many cases, prevent disorders such as ADHD, dyslexia and autism.

One of the conference speakers is Brian McDonogh, a GP from a private clinic in Crawley who has more than 20 years' experience and is an expert on the nutritional management of chronic illness.

He has a special interest in ADHD, believing the nutritional approach should be the first line of therapy, although drugs such as Ritalin may be necessary in some cases. "It is important to look at every other possibility before resorting to drugs with potentially harmful side-effects," he says.

"Assessing a child's medical history and diet will often provide us with vital clues."

Dr McDonogh is particularly concerned about unnecessary chemicals in children's foods. Artificial additives in soft and diet drinks, confectionery, lollies and a host of other foods do not introduce nutritional value to foods.

He says: "The only reason they are added is because they make foods visually more appealing and taste artificially more attractive."

The dyes sunset yellow (E110), tartrazine (E102), carmoisine (E122) and Ponceau 4R (E124), the flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (E621) and the preservative sodium benzoate (E211) are some of the worst offenders.

Replacing junk food with meals that are higher in the basic raw materials required by the body is the first step in managing children with behavioural problems.

Supplements may be necessary because the quality of the fuel we put into our bodies each day is no longer sufficient.

Modern agricultural practices mean the nutritional value of our foods is depleted, soil quality is poor, fruits and vegetables are harvested before they are ripe and stored for prolonged periods.

Food is far from fresh by the time it is eaten.

This is compounded by frantic lifestyles and hastily-eaten snacks that supply excess salt, sugar and calories.

Many children also suffer from enzyme deficiencies, malabsorption problems and food intolerances. Such is the complexity, each ADHD case should be examined on its own merits by a consultant in nutritional medicine.

Yet a nutritionist is not currently a member of the multi-disciplinary team that assesses these cases.

Dr McDonogh points to the volume of research supporting the importance of diet and nutrition. He says: "There is ample evidence that diet can have significant effects on mood and behaviour and must be taken seriously.

"Long-term adverse effects on emotional, social and academic development affect individuals, families and society at large."

Dr McDonogh is at Eagle Clinic, Gainsborough House, High Street, Crawley, West Sussex. Call 01293 582340.

For details of the conference, call 0870 161 3505.

Martina is a qualified nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: