What Are Artificial Colours Made Of? How Safe Are They, especially when consumed by Kids.

Don't you love the beautiful orange gravy of Butter Chicken? Or the Bright red Frostings on your birthday cake or the Royal Blue candies? We all love the way food colours bring alive a dish, completely transforming it and leaving us asking for more. Artificial colours have actually helped the food connoisseurs of the world to experiment more with food and make it not just a treat to the palate, but a treat to the eyes too. These artificial colours make food look appealing, but at what cost? Food dyes or artificial food colours use chemicals that may not be healthy to use on a regular basis.

What are artificial food colours?

Let us first make the distinction between artificial and natural food colours. Natural colouring agents like Saffron, or even haldi, are good to use in every day cooking. In fact, they come with a host of benefits that go beyond just their colouring capacity. 'Artificial' food colours, on the other hand, are made in labs, these are chemical substances that are developed to enhance the appearance of food by giving it artificial colour. Food colourings have been used for centuries now. Earlier they were created from coal tar, nowadays they are made with petroleum. The eye-catching bright colour that you see on those pink/green/blue cakes on display windows is achieved through the addition of artificial food colouring. According to Chief Nutritionist Priya Bharma from Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, "Artificial colouring helps to make food more captivating but at the cost of health, causing everything from hyperactivity and allergic reactions to cancer. Artificial colours are high in calories and less in nutrients and are mostly found in processed junk foods. For example a royal blue dye found in candy, ice cream, cereal and snacks. Focus on eating whole and unprocessed food like dairy products, unflavored nuts, unpolished cereals, fruits and vegetables etc. A lot has been said about the safety of food colours as they may have toxic substances that might be hazardous for the body. Even if these food colours are 'approved' how you or your family react to these may be different from how your neighbours react. These are not banned substances, but each one of us may react differently to them. If you are worried about persistent allergic reactions triggered by the eating of colourful candies and bakery items then consult a doctor today to clear out any doubts.

The possible risks of consuming artificial food colours According to the study published in The Lancet, food colours showed an increase in hyperactivity after kids consumed foods containing artificial food colours. In fact, food colours have been found to cause skin allergies, especially the red colouring that is also attributed to causing cancer. Yellow food colour has been known to aggravate asthma symptoms.

Whether it is proved or not, one should limit the consumption of artificial food colours considering they have a generous amount of chemicals in them, plus they are added in more and more processed foods, which are dangerous for one's health, especially in the case of children. While food manufacturers cannot restrict the use of artificial food colours processed items, it is always good to ensure a limited usage of the colours. In case you wish to use food colours, you can use natural food colours that are healthier and safer to use.

How bad are Red 40 and more synthetic dyes?

Americans are now eating five times as much food dye as we did in 1955. That statistic isn't as surprising when you consider that since then food dyes have made more and more of our foods colourful-from breakfast cereals to ice creams. While natural colourants made from foods like beets are available, many manufacturers opt for synthetic dyes-which may have dangerous health consequences, particularly for children, according to a recent report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. This is why the nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based consumer watchdog group has asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban them. Such man-made food dyes appear in ingredient lists as a name of a colour with a number following it: Blue 1 and 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 3 and 40, Yellow 5 and 6.

The three most widely used culprits-Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40-contain compounds, including benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl that research has linked with cancer.

Research has also associated food dyes with problems in children including allergies, hyperactivity, learning impairment, irritability and aggressiveness. A U.S. study published in Science found that when children who scored high on a scale measuring hyperactivity consumed a food-dye blend they performed worse on tests that measured their ability to recall images than when they drank a placebo. A 2007 British study found that children who consumed a mixture of common synthetic dyes displayed hyperactive behaviour within an hour of consumption. (These children had not been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.) The results, published in The Lancet, prompted Britain's Food Standards Agency to encourage manufacturers to find alternatives to food dyes. In July 2010, the European Parliament's mandate that foods and beverages containing food dyes must be labelled as such went into effect for the entire European Union.

Preliminary evidence suggests that many children have a slight sensitivity to food dyes-and a smaller percentage are very sensitive. "We see reactions in sensitive individuals that include core ADHD symptoms, like difficulty sitting in a chair and interrupting conversations," says David Schab, M.D., M.P.H., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and co-author of a 2004 meta-analysis that found food dyes promote hyperactive behaviour in already hyperactive children. Even so, says Schab, this isn't the most compelling reason to give up food dyes. "Foods with dyes are often riddled with other nutritional problems, like excess calories and fat," says Schab, who points out that childhood obesity is a far greater public health concern.

Bottom Line: If you're concerned, ditch the potentially dangerous synthetic dyes. Look for foods bearing the green-and-white USDA certified organic label, but be aware that foods labelled "made with organic ingredients" may still contain synthetic dyes. You can also check product ingredient lists for beet, carotenes, annatto, capsanthin (a paprika extract)-as all are natural colorants. Counter-intuitively, the terms "artificial colour," "artificial colour added" or "colour added" also indicate that nature-derived pigments were used since synthetic dyes must be listed by their names.

Source - Google

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