Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Are Artificial Colors Bad For You?

Also Known As: synthetic food dye



Short answer

Yes, artificial colors can be very bad for you. They create harmful reactions in children and are proven to be carcinogenic. However, by becoming aware of the dangerous effects dyes can have, you can make an informed decision when choosing foods for your family. Stores such as Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s offer many products that are free from artificial dyes.



Long answer

Why do we use artificial coloring?  Many people ponder this question after learning the harmful effects the artificial colors have on the human body.  Oddly enough, we actually color our food to make it pretty.  Research shows that people are more likely to buy pretty food. It sounds silly when you think about it, but it is true.  Most mainstream processed foods contain some type of artificial coloring. 

It is also important to understand that some people are greater affected by food dyes than others, specifically children.  Some colors, such as Orange 1 & 2, Red 4, Red 32, Yellow 1, 2, 3 & 4 have been removed from the market by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to known carcinogenic reactions, and severe allergic reactions.  Orange 1 & 2 and Red 32 were all removed after a very vague record stating “children’s illness incident” in the 1950s.  The current, most popular dyes found in food include Citrus Red 2, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2 and Green 3.  It is important to note the Yellow 5 is currently under investigation for possible removal from the FDA approved dye list and Red 2 has teeter-totted off and on the approved list over the last four decades.  Research concerns regarding food dyes are relevant to their carcinogenic properties.  Conflicting research has also been published regarding complications with reproductive health in men and women, and negative effects on embryos. 

The biggest controversies surrounding artificial dyes relate to their effects on children.  Countless research has pointed to behavioral changes in children after consuming food dyes, with the highest concerns being red and yellow dyes.  The problem is generally a type of food allergy that manifests itself through hyperactivity, lack of concentration, and poor judgment.  These effects are significantly increased in children with Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD & ADHD).  Researchers have found a strong correlation with allergic reactions and dyes Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6.

Artificial dyes are without a doubt most harmful in children.  Regardless of if your child suffers from ADD/ADHD, these dyes are likely to have a negative effect on all children, and many adults.  Additionally significant research points to the large carcinogenic risks associated with these dyes.  Avoid exposing your family to these chemicals by shopping at stores that specialize in natural organic products, such as Whole Foods.  Though the price is higher, it is a small price to pay for the health of your family!

Possible short-term side effects

  • hyperactivity
  • decreased concentration
  • poor judgement
  • allergic reaction

Possible long-term side effects

  • cancer
  • harmful to embryos (inconclusive)
  • harmful to reproductive health (inconclusive)

Commonly found in

  • processed snacks
  • sodas
  • juices
  • sports drinks
  • chips
  • candy bars
  • cereals (especially multi-colored)
  • frozen meals
  • gummies
  • anything that appears bright / vibrant in color may be artificially dyed


  • enhances the color of various products

Healthier alternatives

  • products colored naturally

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
Published on: 01-03-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
Published on: 01-03-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Random Page

Check These Out!