Health Risks Of Artificial Food Dyes


Artificial food colors are responsible for the bright colors of candy, sports drinks, and baked foods. They are even used in certain brands of pickles, smoked salmon, and salad dressings, as well as in medications. The consumption of artificial food colors has increased by 500% in the last 50 years and children are the largest consumers.

What Are Artificial Food Colors?

Artificial food colors are substances derived from petroleum that give food color. The safety of these dyes is highly controversial. Food colors are chemicals that were developed to improve the appearance of food by giving it an artificial color. People have added colorants to food for centuries, but the first artificial food colors were created in 1856 from coal tar.

Over the years, hundreds of artificial food colors have been developed, but since then most of them have been found to be toxic. There are only a few chemical colorings that are now found in food.

Food manufacturers often prefer artificial food colors to natural food colors, such as beta-carotene and beet extract, because they produce more vibrant colors. However, there is quite a bit of controversy regarding the safety of artificial food colors. All artificial dyes currently used in food have been tested for toxicity in animal studies.

Where Are Artificial Colors Used?

Bright sweets and breakfast cereals are the obvious culprits, but check the ingredient lists for your favorite sweets and baked products. You will most likely find artificial colors like "Yellow 5" and "Blue 1". In soda and other foods, gelatin sweets, also pet food, and some meat products, manufacturers have put these dyes in (hot dogs, sausages, etc.). And they don't just wear one. It is not uncommon to find two or more of these artificial dyes in one product. Artificial colors currently used in food. They are as follows:

  • Red No. 3 (Erythrosine) - A cherry red colorant commonly used in candy, popsicles, and cake decorating gels.
  • Red No. 40 (Allura Red) - A dark red dye used in sports drinks, candy, condiments, and cereals.
  • Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine) - A lemon yellow dye found in candy, soda, potato chips, popcorn, and cereal.
  • Yellow No. 6 (Sunset Yellow) - An orange-yellow dye used in candy, sauces, baked goods, and canned fruit.
  • Blue No. 1 (Brilliant Blue) - A blue-green tint used in ice cream, canned peas, packaged soups, popsicles, and frostings.
  • Blue No. 2 (Indigo Carmine) - A royal blue dye found in candy, ice cream, cereal, and snacks.

Side Effects

Allergic Reactions

Some artificial food colors, especially blue 1, red 40, yellow 5 and yellow 6, can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. For example, research links yellow 5 to aspirin allergies and asthma. People suffering from chronic hives or swelling are 52% more likely to react to artificial food coloring. If you ever experience symptoms of discomfort after eating, it is important that you take note and consult a doctor.

Cancer Potential

Perhaps the scariest claim against artificial food colors has the least supported research. In fact, studies using Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 found no evidence of carcinogenic effects. We can not claim the same for Blue 2 and Red 3.

In the people exposed to a high dose of Blue 2, Blue 2 observed a large rise in brain tumors. Ultimately, the researchers could not determine whether Blue 2 caused the tumors.

The most controversial dye, red 3, conclusively increased the risk of thyroid tumors in rats exposed to it. Red 3 has largely been superseded by Red 40 but is still used in maraschino cherries, popsicles, and candies.

Hyperactivity In Children

As early as the 1970s, claims of hyperactivity and learning disabilities began to emerge in children caused by artificial food colors. At the time, there was very little scientific evidence to support these claims. Still, many parents took precautions regarding artificial food colors, keeping the claims relevant and more researched. More recently, several studies have found a small but significant association between artificial food colors and hyperactivity in children.

Should I Avoid Artificial Food Colors?

The most concerning claim about artificial food colors is that they cause cancer. However, the evidence supporting this claim is weak. Based on currently available research, consuming food coloring is unlikely to cause cancer.

Certain food dyes cause allergic reactions in some people, but if you don't have any allergy symptoms, there is no reason to eliminate them from your diet.

The claim about food coloring that has the strongest science behind it is the connection between food coloring and hyperactivity in children.

If your child is hyperactive or aggressive, it may be beneficial to eliminate artificial food colors from his diet.

The reason coloring is used in food is to make food appear more attractive. There are absolutely no nutritional benefits from food coloring.

However, there is not enough evidence to support that everyone should avoid artificial food colors.

That said, it always helps to eat healthy foods. The main sources of food coloring are unhealthy processed foods that have other negative effects on health.

Eliminating processed foods from your diet and focusing on healthy whole foods will improve your overall health and drastically decrease your intake of artificial food colors in the process.

How To Remove Artificial Food Colors?

The best way to eliminate artificial food colors from your diet is to focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods. Unlike processed foods, most whole foods are very nutritious.

Here are some foods without natural colorants:

  • Dairy products and eggs: milk, plain yogurt, cheese, eggs, cottage cheese.
  • Meat and poultry: fresh, unmarinated chicken, beef, pork, and fish.
  • Nuts and seeds: Unflavored almonds, macadamia nuts, cashews, walnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: all fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Grains: oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley.
  • Legumes: black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, navy beans, lentils.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an artificial food coloring made of?

They are made in a laboratory using chemicals derived from petroleum, a product of crude oil, which is also used in gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, and tar.

2. Why is red 40 bad ?

In children, Red Dye 40 has been associated with violence and behavioral illnesses such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

3. How bad is blue1?

It has been understood for a long time that blue 1, red 40, yellow 5, and yellow 6 induce allergic reactions in certain individuals.

4. Can food coloring cause anxiety?

The fact is that artificial colors and sweeteners are neurotoxins that can disrupt the normal functioning of the nervous system and lead to increased symptoms of anxiety.

5. What happens if you eat too much food coloring?

There is no conclusive evidence that food coloring is dangerous for most people. However, they can cause allergic reactions in some people and hyperactivity in sensitive children. However, most food colors are found in unhealthy processed foods that should be avoided anyway.

6. Can you drink water with food coloring?

The food coloring is tested to be safe for human consumption, but only in small amounts, such as those that can be used to color icing or cookie dough.

7. What's wrong with artificial flavors?

Artificial flavors are generally not harmful. However, they do not excite me because they do not tend to reproduce the natural flavor of foods and are often poor quality food markers.

8. Why are artificial flavors used?

Additives meant to imitate the taste of natural ingredients are known as chemical flavors.They are a cost-effective way for manufacturers to make something strawberry flavored, without using actual strawberries.

9. What foods have artificial sweeteners?

  • Diet sodas and other beverages
  • Sugar-free foods (such as gelatin, ice cream, cookies, etc.)
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Yogurt
  • Pre-made shakes and protein powders
  • Energy drinks
  • Bread products (granola bars, cereals)
  • Condiments, sauces, and dressings