The Bold Colors In The Foods We Eat

by beagooddad on June 17, 2008

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I have been keeping track of a heath news story for a while now. I’m still waiting for some kind of actual study instead of just parents saying that removing something from their kids’ diets greatly helped their kids. The problems with those stories is that, while their kid may have been helped, it could be that their kid had a specific sensitivity.

For example, some kids are allergic/sensitive to milk. I’m not going to stop my kids from drinking milk because they are clearly fine with it.

Anyway, the news story I’m talking about concerns artificial colors in food. Specifically, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, and Yellow 6.

cheetos and food colors

What exactly do these artificial colors do? They make things like Cheetos, Macaroni and Cheese, Fruit Loops, and even Guacamole dip explode with vivid colors. Which attracts kids eyeballs. And also let’s the manufacturers put less (or in some instances none) of the actual food the color is used to simulate.

But, a lot of people are starting to think that the artificial food colors do more than just that. Apparently, there is a fairly strong link between the food colors I mentioned above and hyperactivity. So much so that parents all over Britain started complaining very strongly. As a result, companies are starting to change the way they make food in those countries. For example, when you order a Lunchables in the US, you get some of those artificial food colors but not in the UK. When you order a strawberry sundae in the UK, you get strawberries. In the US you get Red 40.

Parents here in the US are starting to pressure the government and FDA but so far they both say there is not enough evidence to make a formal ban.

I have one big question that I haven’t found the answers for yet.

How long does it take after eating those artificial colors before you see the hyperactivity and how long does it last? – Is it something that does a burst like sugar and caffeine or is it something that lasts for weeks and therefor generally makes you kid hyperactive all the time?

If it is a relatively short burst than it should be pretty easy to design studies to find out if it is really the food colors.

If it is one of those long term affect type of things, that gets into a much trickier testing realm because any study that looks at removing the food colors from a diet must also look at other things that have changed in the diet. Did removing those artificial food colors also remove excess sugar, excess carbs or introduce healthier items in exchange? Were there lifestyle changes that also happened during the testing like more exercise or just parents that were more patient with their kid during the testing.

Hopefully us consumers will continue pressuring for more conclusive studies to get a better picture of what is really happening.

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