Immune reactivity to food coloring

Altern Ther Health Med. 2015;21 Suppl 1:52-62.

Abstract

Artificial food dyes are made from petroleum and have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the enhancement of the color of processed foods. They are widely used in the food and pharmaceutical industries to increase the appeal and acceptability of their products. Synthetic food colorants can achieve hues not possible for natural colorants and are cheaper, more easily available, and last longer. However, since the use of artificial food coloring has become widespread, many allergic and other immune reactive disorders have increasingly been reported. During the past 50 y, the amount of synthetic dye used in foods has increased by 500%. Simultaneously, an alarming rise has occurred in behavioral problems in children, such as aggression, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The ingestion of food delivers the greatest foreign antigenic load that challenges the immune system. Artificial colors can also be absorbed via the skin through cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. The molecules of synthetic colorants are small, and the immune system finds it difficult to defend the body against them. They can also bond to food or body proteins and, thus, are able to act in stealth mode to circumvent and disrupt the immune system. The consumption of synthetic food colors, and their ability to bind with body proteins, can have significant immunological consequences. This consumption can activate the inflammatory cascade, can result in the induction of intestinal permeability to large antigenic molecules, and could lead to cross-reactivities, autoimmunities, and even neurobehavioral disorders. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently found a 41% increase in diagnoses of ADHD in boys of high-school age during the past decade. More shocking is the legal amount of artificial colorants allowed by the FDA in the foods, drugs, and cosmetics that we consume and use every day. The consuming public is largely unaware of the perilous truth behind the deceptive allure of artificial color.

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
  • Azo Compounds / immunology
  • Benzenesulfonates / immunology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Erythrosine
  • Food Coloring Agents*
  • Food Hypersensitivity*
  • Humans
  • Protein Binding
  • Rosaniline Dyes / immunology
  • Tartrazine
  • United States

Substances

  • Azo Compounds
  • Benzenesulfonates
  • Food Coloring Agents
  • Rosaniline Dyes
  • Allura Red AC Dye
  • sulfan blue
  • brilliant blue
  • Tartrazine
  • Erythrosine