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Red 40, a food dye found in snacks like Pepsi and Doritos, may trigger inflammatory bowel disease

Red 40, a food dye found in snacks like Pepsi and Doritos, may trigger inflammatory bowel disease

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A food dye found in dozens of family favorite snacks can cause severe bowel disease, scientists warn.

Red 40, also known as Allura red, is found in several popular candies, sodas and chips — including Doritos, Skittles and Pepsi — as well as in baked goods and cake mixes.

But researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canadafound that the supplement can interfere with the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients, water and electrolytes, increasing the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease.

They say this weakening of the body’s defenses can make people more susceptible to ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

While the study was conducted on mice, the researchers say the findings apply to people in Western countries, whose diets typically contain a lot of food dyes.

Red 40, also known as Allura red, is found in several popular candies, sodas and chips – including Doritos, Skittles and Pepsi – as well as in baked goods and cake mixes

Lead researcher Dr Waliul Khan said: “These findings have important implications for the prevention and management of inflammatory bowel disease.”

He added: “What we found is striking and alarming, as this common synthetic food dye is a possible dietary trigger for IBDs.”

The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Inflammatory bowel diseases such as colitis and Crohn’s disease, a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the digestive tract, are estimated to affect about three million Americans.

A major caveat of the study, however, is that the human diet must contain a higher than recommended amount of Red 40 to see the results reported in the mice.

Mice that only consumed Red 40 intermittently did not have increased levels of colitis, suggesting that only people who occasionally consume food or drinks containing Red 40 would be affected.

The use of food coloring has increased over the past 100 years, but there is little research on their effects on the gut.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits the amount of food coloring in food and cosmetics and sets the recommended daily limit at 7 mg/kg body weight.

However, the chemicals in paints are linked to a myriad of conditions.

As part of their study, the McMaster scientists gave mouse models Allura Red dye in their food for 12 weeks.

They found that the supplement increased serotonin production in the colon and destroyed gut bacteria, triggering cases of colitis, a chronic condition that causes ulcers and sores in the digestive tract.

Serotonin – sometimes called the “happy hormone” – is often talked about for its effects on the brain. Low levels of the hormone are usually a factor in people with depression.

But in fact, the gut is responsible for producing 95 percent of the body’s total serotonin.

In the gut, serotonin regulates the normal rhythmic movement of intestinal muscle and helps move intestinal contents along the way. It is also responsible for the absorption of nutrients, electrolytes and water.

The researchers screened for several common synthetic dyes in a human enterochromaffin (EC) cell model.

It affects the colon and rectum and can cause a variety of inflammation-related problems, including abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, dehydration, and bloody stools.

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

Studies suggest a link between the consumption of food dyes and hyperactivity in children.

An April 2021 analysis of studies commissioned by the state of California reported that of a total of 25 studies on the topic, 16 identified some link between food dyes and neurobehavioral problems, “particularly exacerbation of attention problems, such as in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioral outcomes’.

Red 40 as well as Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 contain benzidinea human and animal carcinogen permitted at low, supposedly safe levels in dyes.

The FDA estimated in 1985 that ingestion of free benzidine raised the risk of cancer to just below the threshold of “concern,” or 1 cancer per 1 million people.


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