Are pretty colored foods pretty good for you?

Why do companies use food coloring?

From beverages such as Gatorade, to foods such as salmon, companies have been using synthetic food coloring and dyes for years? But why you may ask? The answer is simple. Aesthetics. That’s right- beauty.  Food and beverage companies have conducted extensive research, and have found that people prefer to buy pretty colored foods and beverages, over their dull, bland colored counterparts. This is because our senses are attracted to bright vibrant colors. But is eating and drinking, artificially colored food and beverages, good for your health?

Why pretty colored foods are pretty bad for you?

Although artificially colored foods look visually appealing, they are not good for you. Numerous studies have found that artificial food colorings such as FD&C Blue No.1, and FD&C red #40 have been associated with numerous health problems including:

1 Triggering food allergies in people who are sensitive to these chemicals, which may cause rashes, asthma, inflammation, and other reactions, including immune system reactions (which may impair immune system function, making individuals more vulnerable to infections and disease).

2 Lowering sperm count and fertility in males. (No further explanation needed.)

3 Contributing to the development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children, which affects their behavior and performance in school.

4 Identification as a potential cause of cancer (based on studies conducted on animals).

Due to the variety of health problems linked to the use of synthetic dyes, many countries in Europe have banned their use in food products( in particular those geared toward children). Additionally, products that do contain synthetic dyes, must carry special warning labels, advising of the potential health consequences, associated with their consumption. You may be asking yourself, why hasn’t the United States followed their European counterparts in this endeavor? The answer is simple. Money!!!  Artificially colored foods and drinks, generate billions of dollars for the companies that sell these products. Hence, to ban these products would be to potentially lose billions of dollars from the economy.  Why can’t these companies use natural coloring from plants? Once again the answer is money. Natural food coloring is more expensive (which would cut into the profits of these companies), and are limited, in regards to the range of colors that could be achieved, since they come from nature.

How can I avoid synthetic dyes in my food and drinks?

Read the labels on the products you buy. If you see scientific words/letters, followed by a color, (FD&C Blue No.1) that is an indication that the product you are buying contains artificial colors. Additionally, whenever possible, avoid buying overly processed foods, as they are more likely to contain synthetic colors (e.g.neon orange potato chips). Also use your senses. If a drink or beverage, has an unusual color, more than likely it contains a synthetic dye. Purchase foods and drinks, that have their natural color (i.e. orange juice should be orange not blue).  This will take some effort, but your health is worth it.

Always Remember- Foods are like friends. Choose them wisely!

Sources of information for article are below:

1 Nascimento Teles, Julia and Maria Lúcia Teixeira Polônio. “Knowledge of Nursing and Nutrition Graduate Students on the Consumption of Food Colorings and Their Adverse Health Effects. Revista De Pesquisa: Cuidado E Fundamental, vol. 8, no. 4, out-dez2016, pp. 5045-5053.

2 Cook, Doug. “Food Dyes and Hyperactivity.” Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, no. 347, Sept. 2011, pp. 31-35.

3 Mosko, Sarah ‘Steve’. “Fooled by Food Dyes: From Cereal Bars to Salad Dressings, Artificial Food Dyes Are Everywhere. E, no. 2, 2012, p. 36.

4 Vojdani, Aristo and Charlene Vojdani. “Immune Reactivity to Food Coloring.” Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, vol. 21, no. S1, 2015 Supplement 1, pp. 52-62.

5 Hersey, Jane. “Diet and Children’s Behavior: Are Food Dyes the Missing Link?.” Townsend Letter, no. 364, Nov. 2013, p. 27.

6 Lok, K.Y.W., et al. “Synthetic Colorings of some Snack Foods Consumed by Primary School Children Aged 8–9 Years in Hong Kong.” Food Additives & Contaminants: Part B: Surveillance Communications, vol. 4, no. 3, Sept. 2011, p. 162.

7 “Consumers, Activists Pushing Natural.” Candy Industry, vol. 179, no. 6, June 2014, pp. 40-41.


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