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Food dyes side effects: Study reports a new harmful effect of food additives

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Kamal Saini
Kamal S. has been Journalist and Writer for Business, Hardware and Gadgets at Revyuh.com since 2018. He deals with B2b, Funding, Blockchain, Law, IT security, privacy, surveillance, digital self-defense and network policy. As part of his studies of political science, sociology and law, he researched the impact of technology on human coexistence. Email: kamal (at) revyuh (dot) com

For the first time, science puts on the table a new dangerous side effect of artificial food colors on inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Not just one, two, or three… Too many factors are already put together that are behind the incidence of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Some have increased exponentially in the last century.

Here is the list of all: dramatic changes in the concentration of air and water pollutants, in addition to the increased use of processed foods and food additives.

Now lands a new study that points to a particular class of diet products (food coloring) in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a condition that affects millions of people around the world.

Artificial food colors were first introduced into the food chain at the end of the 19th century, but despite being highly prevalent in global diets, they have not been studied in the context of IBD. Thus, new research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (New York, USA), published in ‘Cell Metabolism’, has been the first to show this phenomenon.

The study, conducted in mice, found that they developed colitis when they consumed foods with the artificial food colors red 40 and yellow 6, when a specific component of their immune system, known as the cytokine IL-23, was unregulated. While it’s unclear whether food coloring has similar effects in humans, the researchers plan to investigate exactly how the cytokine IL-23 promotes the development of colitis after exposure to food coloring.

Colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and dysregulation of the cytokine IL-23 is known to be a factor in the development of IBD in humans. Medications that block its function are now being used successfully in patients. Food colors such as Red 40 and Yellow 6 are widely used in food, drink, and medicine. They are the two most used in the world.

Both genetic predisposition and environmental factors appear to play a role in whether a person develops IBD, a condition that affects millions of people around the world, but the exact environmental factors remain elusive.

Study data

For the study, the researchers created mouse models that had unregulated expression of the cytokine IL-23. To their surprise, mice with dysregulated immune responses did not develop inflammatory bowel disease spontaneously even though deregulated IL-23 is a factor in people with the disease.

When given a diet with the red 40 or yellow 6 food dyes, the altered mice developed colitis. However, those who followed the dye-infused diet but had normal immune systems did not develop IBD. To prove that the food coloring was really responsible, the researchers fed the mice modified diets without the food coloring or the water that contained it; in both cases, the disease developed when the mice consumed the dye, but not otherwise. They repeated this finding for various diets and various food colorings.

The dramatic changes in the concentration of air and water pollutants and the increased use of processed foods and food additives in the human diet in the last century correlate with an increase in the incidence of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases

the authors of the work comment.

These environmental changes are thought to contribute to development of these diseases, but relatively little is known about how they do so. We hope this research is a step toward understanding the impact of food colorants on human health

they continue.

What other experts say?

According to experts, it is “a very interesting work, since it opens a way to investigate with scientific evidence what all of us who dedicate ourselves suspect nutrition. Currently, the industry is bombarding what we buy with food chemical additives that it is clear that in the long term it should not be good to subject our body to huge doses of chemicals that before it did not receive in such magnitude and that, in the short term of exposure, not but in the long term, they will generate health problems even in humans. The evidence of a relationship between the exposure of mice to these dyes and the appearance of colitis when the immune system is dysregulated is very clear.”

What other additives can harm health?

According to them, “The problem is that there is a lack of studies and clear evidence to show that certain additives can harm health, because the damage will occur in the long term and with very prolonged exposure and, sometimes, studies of so long term, but it is suspected. And, in some cases, the evidence of a cause-effect relationship is very strong in additives such as tartrazine (E110, 122, 102, 124, 211), sulfites (E220 and E228), and sulfur dioxide; nitrites and nitrates such as nitrosamine; benzoates, methylcellulose (E461 and E441); cyclamate (E952); acesulfame K and monosodium glutamate (E621).”

What are the diseases that have been linked to dyes?

Most food additive-related illnesses are allergic in nature, from hives and atopic dermatitis to more severe reactions such as asthma attacks and bronchospasm. It has been linked to a strong evident carcinogenic potential in nitrosamines (mainly colon cancer), cyclamate (different cancers). Sulfites can cause food intolerances. Many additives are responsible for dyspepsia, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and, in general, problems in the digestive system.

“Monosodium glutamate produces the ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’, consisting of a severe headache, followed by nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, as well as a urticaria-like skin rash,” insists the CMED expert.

Image Credit: iStock

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