To be honest (and when am I not), the recent headlines that reported food coloring/ artificial food dye can affect behavior in kids was not at all a surprise for me. In fact, I know a few families who have seen drastic results in their children’s demeanor simply by eliminating red dye and yellow dye specifically… you know… no red M&Ms… Kraft macaroni and cheese…Doritos… some yogurts… um, what?! Breezy Mama turned to Dr. Sears, a leading authority on the dietary control of hormonal and inflammatory responses, to find out just how dangerous food dye can be, the particular colors to avoid, why food companies would even use them anymore and more.
What food color dyes specifically should parents avoid giving their kids?
Those containing salicylates. This includes virtually all artificial food colors.
What are the potential harm these dyes can cause?
Salicylates can cause allergenic responses. Keep in mind many fruits and vegetables also contain salicyclates.
Is it true that food coloring can lead to hyper-activity in kids and even have them labeled as having ADHD, when, in fact, eliminating the dyes can reduce the over-active behavior?
In ADHD, the data is pretty clear that increasing omega-3 fatty acids has far better results than eliminating food colorings. The effect of eliminating food dyes at best is about 25% as beneficial as drugs for ADHD. Europe has banned most artificial food dyes, but the US has not.
Is the FDA regulating food dyes or are there plans for better labeling in the US?
Why do these food dyes have such an effect on children?
I feel it is an interaction of the compounds in the food colors with a pro-inflammatory diet. Removing food colors and following an anti-inflammatory diet covers all the potential bases.
Why are companies using these dyes and are there efforts being made to eliminate them?
To make food more colorful and therefore more likely to be eaten.
What are some foods or brands that stand out for you that parents should avoid giving their children?
Any food that has a high glycemic response. Ready to eat breakfast cereals with artificial colors are among the worst.
Can you explain what you mean by “glycemic” response?
A spike in blood sugar that creates a corresponding spike in insulin secretion.
What should parents look for on labels to avoid potentially harmful food coloring and dyes?
Ideally don’t give any food that contains artificial food colors to your children.
Specifically, what should parents look for on a label? Does it actually spell out “red dye” or are there other names on labels to look to avoid?
Look for Red 50, Yellow 5 and 6 as the primarily potential offenders.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Rather than focusing narrowly on a single ingredient, be much more concerned about the balance of protein and low glycemic carbs (fruits and vegetables) in their diet and give your child supplements of omega-3 fatty acids for their brains.
Why is it important to give children Omega 3 fatty acids – what are the positive effects?
To reduce neuro-inflammation and to dampened down potential allergenic reactions.