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Toxins Cloaked in Color
Brought to you from the NEEDS Wellness Team

Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, and Yellow 6. It almost sounds like a whimsical children's song, but don't let the fanciful nature of color fool you. These are toxic food dyes, and yet another category of chemicals that we contend with and attempt to protect our children from each day. They are often used in those brightly colored candies and cereals specifically marketed to and consumed by children.

Interestingly, the US has seen an increase in dye additives over the past 30 years, while the UK is ahead of the curve, with many manufacturers having already switched over to natural dyes. The UK's Food Standards Agency is taking action to regulate food manufacturers and remove the dyes from foods entirely. In the US, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is petitioning the FDA to have these chemicals removed from foods, or at least have warnings printed on the food's label.

Sadly, children's health seems to be greatly impacted by consuming foods which contain these dye additives. Research shows that the dyes may cause attention and scholastic challenges in kids who are sensitive. Many studies suggest that food dyes cause these issues, and the results of a study published in The Lancet in 2007 has made the argument even more compelling. The study was a six-week trial that gave one group of kids a drink containing artificial colors and sodium benzoate (a preservative) and a control group that was given a placebo drink that looked the same. To determine attention and hyperactivity level, the children were monitored by parents and teachers and given computer tests. The children consuming the additives had a significantly shorter attention span and were more hyperactive than those taking the placebo. The effects of the additives would appear in as little as an hour after consumption. One of the researchers concluded, "A mix of additives commonly found in children's foods increases the (average) level of hyperactivity…. The finding lends strong support for the case that food additives exacerbate hyperactive behaviors (inattention, impulsivity, and over-activity) at least into middle childhood."

Taking dyes out of food could have multiple benefits. It has been speculated that children may be taking medications, like Ritalin, because of hyperactivity caused by dyes. Children are then often faced with the side effects of stunted growth, aggression, and insomnia associated with the consumption of Ritalin.

Dyes may also be impacting our health beyond the more obvious behavioral problems. We just don't know the long-term effects of consuming these chemicals. There may be health risks associated with dyes that we haven't even made connections to yet.

In the modern world, we are exposed to so many toxins and chemicals that we need to be looking for opportunities to cut back on our exposure. Food dyes serve very little purpose other than to turn our food hues not found in nature. Hopefully, the FDA will consider this one as a no-brainer and eliminate these unnecessary and toxic chemicals from our food supply.