The Negative Effects of Artificial Food Colorings on our Kids

June 30, 2020
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Artificial food colorings (AFC’s) have permeated the diets of our children (and adults) for over 100 years, and many studies have been done on the effects they have on cognitive, behavioral, and emotional health. As a mother of three, our founder Ruth has paid attention to what her children consume, especially when it comes to AFC’s found in a considerable percentage of fresh and processed foods.

The history of AFC’s being added to foods dates back to the mid 1800’s and early 1900’s, and as the Wiley Online Library1 describes, “tasting with our eyes” only enhanced the power of color in our foods and why they were increasingly used in a variety of food products. The U.S. Food and Drug Association, the FDA, approves a spectrum of different food colorings and shares the history2 of AFC’s being used in foods. It’s fair to say within this conversation that many natural food colorings have been used since ancient times and are approved in food and cosmetics today, with many companies seeking a natural route. Our reason for highlighting this area of dietary consumption is the adverse effects that AFC’s can potentially have, especially on children.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has put together a useful document highlighting some of the suggested health risks of food dyes on children.3 This includes the use of Yellow-5, which has been tested in great depth. It states that six out of eleven studies showed it causing toxicity and hyperactivity in children.

Other studies on rats and mice have shown that Red-3 has a toxicity level that could cause tumors.4 Red-40, Yellow-5, and Yellow-6 may contain carcinogenic substances, with 90% of food colorings used in the USA containing one of these three dyes.5 So, it’s fair to say that the area of food colorings has been a hot topic of study and controversy for many decades, with all these artificial dyes being created from petroleum.

As a company inspired by family wellness, we have been specifically drawn to the growing research around AFC’s consumed by children. Some studies have shown that there is a direct link between food dyes, hyperactivity, and ADHD symptoms in kids.6 Another study showed that eliminating artificial food colorings significantly improved the symptoms of ADHD7, with another showing that Yellow-5 caused the presentation of several behavioral changes including irritability, restlessness and sleep disturbances.8 This finding is also highlighted with the testimonial TED Talk presentation by Dr Rebecca Bevans, a cognitive neuroscientist, and researcher whose own son was affected by AFC’s.9

Research is also showing that children could be consuming a lot more artificial food colorings than was previously thought10 with Forbes Magazine publishing an article sponsored by the KIND Healthy Snacks giving a great visual on AFC consumption by children in the USA each day.11 On top of all this AFC’s could also be the cause of a number of allergic reactions like hives12, and increase symptoms of those suffering from asthma.13 AFC’s also have zero nutritional value.

With all this in mind, we want to leave you with our founder Ruth’s top 5 tips for educating and removing AFC’s from your child’s diet.

1. Whole foods are colorful. Celebrate nature and make whole foods fun. Mention the natural color of foods, and how each natural color holds a superpower for our body when it comes from a natural source.

2. Check labels. Learn how to identify AFC’s in foods.14

3. Get educated. Research AFC’s and how they could be affecting your kids.

4. Find natural alternatives. They are out there, but do bear in mind that a lot of money gets plowed into advertising to kids when it comes to products containing AFC ingredients.15

5. Remember your WHY?. Reducing the amount of AFC’s your child consumes could reduce behavioral issues and concerns and address why ADHD symptoms can increase after certain foods are consumed.16

In conclusion, the adverse effects of AFC’s on our kids continue to be an area of much study and research. X5 Naturals products are free from AFC’s, and our two kid’s products continue to be a potential resource for children who suffer from sleep disturbances, concentration, and stress. To find out more about Sleepy Sloth and Calma Llama, check out our products page.

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