Colors and aromas are the first sensations that are perceived from food, since ancient times people have used natural colorants precisely to make the presentation of food more attractive to the senses; the serious thing begins when artificial colors are introduced that can be toxic and harmful to health.

Why are artificial colors used?

The food industry uses coloring for its products because of certain principles, its harmful effects on health, and some practical measures that must be followed to reduce its risks. Industrialists have long put colorants in their products based on consumer needs. Colorings are added to foods to improve their appearance or to restore color lost during the manufacturing process of some foods.

The colorants are additives or substances spiked food that provide reinforcing or change color of the assembly of food additives, the group of dyes is one of the most controversial among consumers. The artificial dyes may be toxic s and cause disease, for this reason, certain food dyes are banned in some countries.

Types of colorants

Some of them are natural colorants , such as the vegetable colorants typical of certain fruits and vegetables; for example, beta-carotene, gives fruits and vegetables shades between yellow, orange and reddish and is used in butters. But there are artificial or synthetic colorants , of industrial manufacture and that have reported cases of poisoning due to their content of copper, lead and arsenic compounds; very toxic, to fraudulently color food.

Although there are colorants approved by the health authorities in each country for not containing substances that alter health; For this reason, consumer concern about food safety has increased and many companies are reviewing the formulation of their products, substituting artificial colors for other natural colors of mineral, vegetable or animal origin.

Problems caused by food coloring

Foods, which do not have their own color, such as sweets, desserts, snacks, drinks and high-tech products that have recently appeared on the market, are artificially colored to make them more attractive to the consumer. The problem is that every day, more additives are being consumed and many people are reacting with headaches, allergies, itching, irritability, etc. Currently, it is known that some artificial colors can cause chronic hives or even asthma among people sensitive to their components.

This is the case of tartrazine, a yellow dye used in pastry, confectionery, canned vegetables, fish products, ice cream, orange drinks and salad dressings, among others.

Some dyes called blue 1 and blue 2 used in candies and ice creams can cause cancer and male sterility , especially if they are consumed in high doses. Another dye called Red 40, used in potato chips is responsible for irritability and hyperactivity in children causing the child to become more aggressive and more nervous, showing lack of concentration.

As for Yellow 5, a coloring used in cereals, jams and instant noodles, it can cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, migraines, vision problems, behavioral disorders, as well as anxiety. The Yellow 6 dye, used in sausages, gelatin and bakery products could lead to tumors in the kidneys and adrenal glands. Similarly, certain synthetic dyes decrease the function of the immune system and may alter the body’s ability to fight infection.

The current trend is to limit both synthetic additives , prefer natural colorants and return to ingredients that were formerly used to color food such as ash, saffron, turmeric, blackberries or chlorophyll.

Food coloring is a double-edged sword, since although it makes food much more attractive, it can also have terrible consequences for the health of the body. A good measure is to always opt for natural products, which surely do not contain any type of food coloring.

It is recommended if you have any type of intolerance or allergy to dyes, limit the consumption of highly processed and prepackaged foods, consume fresh foods as the basis of your diet, learn well the name of the additives to which you are intolerant . Some have several names, for example tartrazine, also known as Yellow No. 5, check the labels of processed and packaged foods, prefer organic vegetables and fruits, ask in restaurants about additives in preparations, fast food restaurants they are the ones who use the greatest amount of coloring additives.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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