Media release.

Banned by Natural relationships Until

Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, at 11 a.m. ET

According to McMaster researchers, common food coloring triggers inflammatory bowel disease

HAMILTON, ON (December 20, 2022) – Long-term consumption of Allura Red food coloring may be a trigger for inflammatory bowel disease (IBDs), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to Walyal Khan of McMaster University. Using experimental animal models of IBD, researchers have found that chronic exposure to Allura Red AC impairs gut health and promotes inflammation.

The dye directly disrupts gut barrier function and increases production of the serotonin hormone/neurotransmitter in the gut, which subsequently alters gut microbiota composition and increases susceptibility to colitis.

Khan says Allura Red (also called FD&C Red 40 and Food Red 17) is a common ingredient in candy, soft drinks, dairy products and some cereal products. The dye is often used to add color and color to attract children.

The use of artificial food dyes, such as Allura Red, has increased dramatically over the past several decades, but little research has been done on the effects of these dyes on gut health. Khan and his team published their findings in Natural relationships. Yun Han (Eric) Kwon, who recently completed his PhD in Khan’s lab, is the first author.

“This study demonstrates the significant detrimental effects of Allura Red on gut health and identifies gut serotonin as a critical factor mediating these effects. These findings have important implications for the prevention and control of intestinal inflammation,” said senior study author Khan, professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and the Farncombe Family Professor of Nutrition. Principal Investigator, Digestive Health Research Institute.

“Our findings are surprising and alarming because this common artificial food coloring is a dietary trigger for IBDs. This study is a major step forward in alerting the public to the potential harms of the food colorings we use every day,” he said.

“The literature suggests that the use of Allura Red may reduce the risk of certain allergies, immune disorders, and behavioral problems in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

According to Khan, IBDs are chronic inflammatory diseases of the human intestine that affect millions of people worldwide. Although their exact causes are not yet fully understood, research suggests that dysregulated immune responses, genetic factors, gut microbiota imbalances, and environmental factors can cause these conditions.

In recent years, there has been significant progress in identifying susceptibility genes and understanding the role of the immune system and host microbiota in the pathogenesis of IBDs. However, similar developments in identifying environmental hazards have been delayed, he said.

Khan points to environmental triggers for IBDs including the typical Western diet, which includes saturated fats, red and processed meats, sugar and a lack of fiber. The Western diet and processed foods also contain large amounts of various additives and dyes, he said.

The study suggests a link between commonly used food dyes and IBDs, and suggests that more research is needed on the relationship between food dyes and IBDs at the experimental, epidemiological, and clinical levels.

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.



Walil Khan photos can be found at:

The paper is available post embargo at the following locations.

For more information please contact:

Veronica McGuire

Media communication

Faculty of Health Sciences

McMaster University


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