Artificial food colors

artificial food color

Artificial food colors (or color additives) are any dye, pigment or substance that imparts color when it is added to food or drink. Without color additives, colas wouldn’t be brown, margarine wouldn’t be yellow and mint ice cream wouldn’t be green. It is estimated that there are thousands of additives in our food supply [10]! Color additives are recognized as an important part of practically all processed foods we eat.

According to studies [1-9], artificial food colors may increase inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity among young children. They may also harm children’s brains and cause DNA damage in human liver cells. While many international food companies in Europe have taken color additives out of their products, in the rest of the world the situation hasn’t changed.

Please keep in mind that the facts mentioned in this post refer to artificial food colors and not to many of their natural substitutes. To learn more about artificial food colors and their influence, watch this 5-minute video:



Video courtesy of Dr. Michael Greger and


[1] R. B. Kanarek. Artificial food dyes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Nutr. Rev. 2011 69(7):385 – 391.

[2] L. J. Stevens, T. Kuczek, J. R. Burgess, E. Hurt, L. E. Arnold. Dietary sensitivities and ADHD symptoms: Thirty-five years of research. Clin Pediatr (Phila) 2011 50(4):279 – 293.

[3] B. Weiss. Synthetic food colors and neurobehavioral hazards: The view from environmental health research. Environ. Health Perspect. 2012 120(1):1 – 5.

[4] W.-T. Wu, Y.-J. Lin, S.-H. Liou, C.-Y. Yang, K.-F. Cheng, P.-J. Tsai, T.-N. Wu. Brain cancer associated with environmental lead exposure: Evidence from implementation of a National Petrol-Lead Phase-Out Program (PLPOP) in Taiwan between 1979 and 2007. Environ Int 2012 40:97 – 101.

[5] H. W. Mielke, S. Zahran. The urban rise and fall of air lead (Pb) and the latent surge and retreat of societal violence. Environ Int 2012 43:48 – 55.

[6] S. Kobylewski, M. F. Jacobson. Food Dyes A Rainbow of Risks. Center for Science in the Public Interest.

[7] B. Weiss. Artificial food color additives and child behavior: Weiss responds. Environ. Health Perspect. 2012 120(1):a17

[8] International Food Information Council (IFIC). 2010. Food Ingredients and Colors. Foundation US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

[9] T. J. Sobotka. 2010. Overview and Evaluation of Proposed Association Between Artificial Food Colors and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) and Problem Behaviors in Children. Interim Toxicology Review.

[10] Artificial food colors and ADHD by Dr. Michael Greger.