Different candy

Long-term use of Allura Red food coloring may be a trigger for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to researchers. This food coloring is a common ingredient in candy, soft drinks, dairy products, and some cereal products.

Scientists have found that continuous exposure to Allura Red AC can damage gut health and promote inflammation.

Allura Red (also FD&C Red 40 and Food Red 17) is a common ingredient in foods ranging from candy and soft drinks to dairy products and breakfast cereals.

Long-term use of Allura Red food coloring may be a trigger for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, said Waliul Khan of McMaster University. Using 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 the hormone/neurotransmitter serotonin in the gut, which alters gut microbiota composition and increases susceptibility to colitis.

Walil Khan

Walil Khan. Credit: McMaster University

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 results on December 20 in the journal

“The literature suggests that the consumption of Allura Red also affects certain allergies, immune disorders, and behavioral problems in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

Khan said that IBDs are serious chronic inflammatory conditions of the human bowel that affect millions of people worldwide. While their exact causes are still not fully understood, studies have shown that dysregulated immune responses, genetic factors, gut microbiota imbalances, and environmental factors can trigger 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 advances in defining environmental risk factors have lagged, he said.

Khan said that environmental triggers for IBDs include the typical Western diet, which includes processed fats, red and processed meats, sugar, and a lack of fiber. He added that the Western diet and processed food also include large amounts of various additives and dyes.

He added that the study suggests a link between a commonly used food dye and IBDs and warrants further exploration between food dyes and IBDs at experimental, epidemiological, and clinical levels.

Reference: “Chronic exposure to synthetic food colorant Allura Red AC promotes susceptibility to experimental colitis via intestinal serotonin in mice” by Yun Han Kwon, Suhrid Banskota, Huaqing Wang, Laura Rossi, Jensine A. Grondin, Saad A. Syed, Yeganeh Yousefi, Jonathan D. Schertzer, Katherine M. Morrison, Michael G. Wade, Alison C. Holloway, Michael G. Surette, Gregory R. Steinberg and Waliul I. Khan, 20 December 2022, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-35309-y

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

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