If you read the labels of many processed foods, you’ll often notice that they’re loaded with artificial additives. Among these, you may be the most familiar with food colorings such as yellow 5 and yellow 6, both petroleum by-products. They sound harmless enough, but the truth is indeed sinister. These dyes have repeatedly been shown in studies to cause health problems, particularly in children, to whom the most dye-containing foods are marketed. In light of this, Kraft Foods has recently been pressured by concerned parents into removing the yellow dye from their blue-box macaroni and cheese products. It’s a drop in the proverbial bucket, but it’s a start. Here’s what yellow dyes can do and why you should avoid them.
It has recently been announced by the Code of Federal Regulations that all products containing yellow food dye carry a warning label declaring their ability to trigger allergic reactions, including asthma. The label must contain information on the potential for negative reactions in those who are sensitive to aspirin. Indeed, many studies have shown a significant correlation between yellow 5 and people with aspirin sensitivity. Tartrazine has also been shown to cause the highest rate of allergies and asthma out of all food colorings. This can occur both through ingestion and skin contact, and symptoms usually take between six and 14 hours to appear.
The increasing rates of ADHD diagnosis in today’s children may be as simple as the foods they eat. Yellow 5, among others, is known to cause hyperactive behavior as well as impulsivity, irritability, sleep disturbances and an inability to concentrate. Many experts recommend that these dyes be removed from the diet of hyperactive children to see if the symptoms diminish or disappear.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest once claimed that there was no correlation between food dyes and cancer, but their studies were recently found to be critically flawed. However, newer, better-constructed studies by the CSPI have found that yellow 5 causes mutations and chromosomal damage, which dramatically increase the risk of cancer. It has also been shown to cause adrenal, thyroid and testicle tumors. This is especially alarming when one considers that children are far more vulnerable to carcinogenic agents than adults.
Besides the increased rate of hyperactivity problems caused by yellow dyes, they have also been shown to cause mood disorders like anxiety and clinical depression. What’s even more shocking is that when someone is diagnosed with these things and prescribed psychotropic drugs to “treat” the problem, those drugs likely also contain the sinister dye. Inevitably, this prevents the problems from getting better and may actually worsen them.
Until the Food and Drug Administration and food manufacturers begin taking these risks seriously, it is unfortunately up to the consumer to avoid these harmful substances in foods. Make a regular habit of checking the labels on everything you buy. If it contains yellow dyes or any other artificial food coloring, refuse it. Instead, choose products containing natural colors. These often come from turmeric, saffron, annatto, amaranth and paprika, and will typically say so in the ingredients.