Very excited to get a contract with Columbia University Press for my third book, this time on the history of food allergy! Don’t hold your breath for it (think early 2015), but it’s good to have a publisher committed.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is the most common childhood
psychiatric disorder. It is also one of the most controversial. Since the 1950s, when hyperactivity in children was first diagnosed, psychiatrists, educators, parents and politicians have debated the causes, treatment and implications of the disorder. In this book I tell the history of ADHD, explaining why overactive, impulsive children became so problematic, why such behavioural problems were thought to be rooted in neurological dysfunction, and why drugs became the predominant treatment for ADHD. I argue that the best way to understand this complex and divisive disorder is to explore its fascinating – and troubling – history.
An Alternative History of Hyperactivity : Food Additives and the Feingold Diet (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011)
In 1973, San Francisco allergist Ben Feingold created an uproar by claiming that synthetic food additives triggered hyperactivity, then the most commonly diagnosed childhood disorder in the United States. He contended that the epidemic should not be treated with drugs such as Ritalin but, instead, with a food additive free diet. Parents and the media considered his treatment, the Feingold diet, a compelling alternative. Physicians, however, were skeptical and designed dozens of trials to challenge the idea. The resulting medical opinion was that the diet did not work and it was rejected. I argue that those scientific conclusions were, in fact, flawed. An Alternative History of Hyperactivity explores the origins of the Feingold diet, revealing why it became so popular, and the ways in which physicians, parents, and the public made decisions about whether it was a valid treatment for hyperactivity. By arguing that the fate of Feingold’s therapy depended more on cultural, economic, and political factors than on the scientific protocols designed to test it, I suggest the lessons learned can help resolve medical controversies more effectively.
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