Research paper on effects of artificial food coloring

Food has always been considered one of the most important necessities a person could not live without even in the modern world. Like other necessities, food has also transformed to cater to the changing tastes and eating habits of the public. Some have created new recipes, blends and even flavors that exemplifies the eating experience. There are also new processed and ready to eat meals developed for those who are always on the go or those wishing for a fast meal. For children, colorful snacks and desserts are also available for their eating pleasure. However, there are a few groups raising concerns over these colorful foods due to the underlying effects of the artificial food coloring used to make these foods as vibrant as possible. With children mostly attuned to preferring these foods with artificial food coloring, it is crucial for parents to regular their eating habits as studies have shown that artificial food coloring has content that induces both physical and behavioral damages to children no matter the dosage or amount is used.
According to Arnold, Lofthouse and Hurt (2012), food coloring has already been conceptualized and used since the ancient times for food presentation. As the world moved on to the 13th century, countries such as Europe and the United States have slowly seen the potential of food coloring for business, beginning the regulation of food colorings for possible misuse and tampering. Dyes continued to incorporate new substances such as coal and tar in 1856, causing English chemist Sir William Henry Perkin to lobby for further regulation of food coloring in both the United States and Europe. As a result of these lobbying, the US Food and Drug Administration had been established in 1938 alongside the UN Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization in 1955 to regulate the food dye/coloring use and development. In the US, the FDA is tasked to ensure that all artificial food colorings (AFCs) are safe and ensure that it would not be used to contaminate food while making it appear more vibrant. Despite the lapses that challenges the FDA’s capacity to regulate AFCs, it was able to revolutionize how the AFC is regulated, upping its crackdown from the time of inception to stop further use of highly toxic color additives used in the past to stating that a “ food colorant with a 1 in 19 billion chance of causing cancer is legally considered too dangerous”.
In lieu of the lobbying for further regulation and moderation of artificial food coloring use, arguments were slowly developing in terms the capacity of artificial food coloring (AFCs) in affecting long-term consumers, especially children’s behavior and development. Several studies by Arnold, Lofthouse and Hurt in their article showed that the issue had already been raised since the 1920s. Early studies in the period showed that food coloring causes food allergies and hypersensitivities in children, however, it was the study of Dr. Benjamin Feingold in 1973 that shook the foundation of regulation and outlook on AFCs. In his article presented to the American Medical Association, Feingold proposed that “ pediatric hyperactivity and learning problems were due to certain foods and food additives”. His study had presented that his patients showed signs of sensitivity from foods with artificial additives, and to remove these substances, patients can use the Kaiser Permanente diet. This presentation, alongside his book Why Your Child is Hyperactive faced immense scrutiny and debate between medical experts, pharmaceutical companies and with the public. According to the National Advisory Committee of the Nutrition Foundation, they saw Feingold’s presentation to be inconclusive and declared “ No controlled studies have demonstrated that hyperkinesis is related to the ingestion of food additives.” Others, such as the parents who formed the Feingold Association of the United States (FAUS), believed Feingold’s assessment and supported it with several studies such as the study in 1976 by the University of Pittsburgh which highlighted the same arguments presented by Feingold in his work that artificial additives have the capacity to influence a child’s development and behavior.
In 2004 and 2007, three studies known as the Southampton Studies, reflected as to how children with hyperactivity and those with no hyperactivity, show changes when given a diet free of AFCs for two weeks before being given a placebo of AFCs. In their study, it revealed that parents report changes on their children’s hyperactivity on active challenge rather when they were exposed with placebo concentrations of AFCs. However, there were no signs of ADHD symptoms that have developed due to being subjected to AFCs. In the second study, there is an increase on hyperactivity in the children given the dosage provided to the children. The third study also reflected the same results, leading many to conclude that AFCs are a public health risk rather than just being an ADHD problem. The study led to many changes in food color productions, asking producers to include labels to warn users of its possible effects to children .
Stevens, Kuczek and Burgess (2013), in their analysis, identified three mechanisms within AFCs which induces behavioral and physical affects in children: toxicity, hypersensitivity mechanisms and nutritional effects of AFCs to food. In terms of toxicity, the authors cited three studies to AFCs in 2013 that has identified that there are components in some colors (Yellow #6, Yellow #5, carmoisine and Blue #1) that causes growth impairment, liver enzymes, and kidney dysfunction depending on their dosages. Larger dosages of these AFCs to food caused liver stress – increased aspartate transaminase, and alkaline phosphatase – increased kidney function, and abnormal blood count. In the specimens used by studies, it is revealed that the impacts vary when it comes to behavioral functions. Some of the experiments revealed hyperactivity, anxiety and depression to occur, while a few revealed an increase on motor activity. The combination of different food dyes, such as Blue #1 and L-glutamic acid, produces changes in neurite growth, decreasing a person’s neurological development. It is also discovered that some samples of AFCs like Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 contain toxic chemicals such as aromatic amines, benzidine, and aniline found in soft drinks and hard candies. The impact of these dyes are usually directed to the behavior of children. Some dyes are also discovered to have components of lead, arsenic, and mercury which can poison children if induced consistently.
In terms of hypersensitivity mechanisms (or allergic/nonallergic reactions to AFC and other particles), AFCs are considered as “ haptens” due to their low molecular weight. These “ haptens” are mostly located on drugs, cosmetics and food ingredients that can induce allergies. Some AFCs such as Yellow #5 is discovered to cause inflammation in the gastric mucosa of anyone who consume it for 10 months, increasing the growth of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are often seen with allergic reactions of patients. Aside from these changes in one’s gastric mucosa, Yellow # 5 is also discovered to induce swelling, petechial bleeding and further bleeding. In another study, ADHD-type symptoms were discovered with these food colors due to their content of cytokines and histamines, binding the function of target cells within tissues. Children with ADHD exposed to AFCs show significant changes in their behaviors, especially if it is mixed with sodium benzoate, another known component in preservatives. It is also observed that AFCs trigger hypersensitivities, causing migraines, seizures and brain malfunctions that is found with ADHD patients.
AFCs are also capable of influencing the component of foods, especially in terms of their nutritional content. Since the 1930s, mineral content of fruits and vegetables have decreased considerably due to the introduction of fertilizer with high nitrogen and potassium content. Adding to this mineral deficiencies through agriculture, food processing is also changing how minerals retain in foods available in the market at the present time. In one study that discusses the impact of AFCs to hyperactive children; long-term consumption of these dyes can cause chronic zinc depletion. Zinc is an important nutrient that triggers the development of the brain and its functions. Zinc deficiency or depletion has long been associated with hyperactivity. Artificial colors such as Yellow #5 and #6 destroy zinc nutrients in food that cause chronic zinc depletion in hyperactive children. In a successive study, child participants that had been given Yellow #6 also show a zinc-wasting effect that causes damaged microvilli and intestinal permeability. In relation to zinc deficiencies, it can also lead to oxidation stresses, preventing the activity of the person’s antioxidant system to convert superoxide to oxygen. Zinc deterioration is also discovered with children that show sensitivity to AFCs such as tartrazine and sunset yellow reflect behavioral deterioration .
At the present time, Cook (2011) stated that the public, alongside several non-profit organizations, are calling for changes in the moderation and use of AFCs in the country. Many of children’s preferred snacks and junk foods are identified to have artificial food dyes such as sport drinks, candies, ice cream, soft drinks, ketchup, and even some medicines and toothpaste. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has expressed concerns over the liberal use of food coloring in many of today’s popular processed foods and stated that it is crucial that the government places a stronger initiative to ensure that these foods are not harmful for children. The CSPI had petitioned in 2008 for the Food and Drug Administration to call a ban to eight synthetic food dyes currently used in the market: FD-C Blue No. 1-2, FD-C Green No. 3, Orange B, FD-C Red No. 3 & 40 and FD-C Yellow Nos. 5-6. The FDA has yet to make an action on the CSPI petition as their own studies did not see these colors to cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children despite stating that there may be a selected few children that may be affected by these colors. Experts are advising parents to introduce healthy diet to their children to combat the use of AFCs. Supplements such as zinc, fish oils, magnesium and vitamin B6 are advised to be given to children with ADHD in order to improve their impulses and promote better focus .
With the world now constantly developing new means to enjoy their food, it is crucial to understand that each change has a particular consequence. In the case of using food additives, it is necessary for food producers and manufacturers to be cautious on the materials they use to make food appealing. While it may seem that adding a little artificial color to food won’t hurt anyone, it still has a capacity to cause pain and complications depending on what it is made of and how liberal it is used. Consumers must also be informed of the dangers of these components as the risks it has over children, even with the slightest dosage can prove fatal in their development. Both the consumers and the government should work hand in hand to understand the dangers of these artificial food colorings, working on the regulations to moderate these components and means to introduce healthier options for children. While adding more color to food would make it more appealing, it can still be appealing without tampering its natural components and harnessing natural flavors that can tempt one’s desire to good food.

Works Cited

Arnold, L. Eugene, Nicholas Lofthouse and Elizabeth Hurt. ” Artificial Food Colors and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Symptoms: Conclusions to Dye for.” Neurotherapeutics 9 (2012): 599-609. Print.
Cook, Doug. ” Food Dyes and Hyperactivity: Seeing beyond the rainbow.” September 2011. Alive. com. Web. 27 November 2013. .
Stevens, Laura, et al. ” Mechanisms of behavioral, atopic, and other reactions to artificial food colors in children.” Nutrition Reviews 71. 5 (2013): 268-281. Print.