The Risks of Artificial FD&C Food Dyes

Behavioral psychologists have long concluded that our brain makes reflexive decisions by way of associative memory. In short, associative memory refers to the autonomous process in which a memory is recalled when experiencing a separate stimulus or response. For example, if you see a clear-glass beverage bottle containing an orange-colored liquid, you expect the liquid will resemble the taste of oranges. Your brain’s “database” has categorically associated the look of orange-colored liquids with the taste of oranges. Using food dyes, that liquid beverage was most likely artificially-colored for the sole purpose of presenting the brain with an acceptable association. Without added dyes, the liquid would probably have no discernable color, and thus the brain wouldn’t associate a taste with it; not good for sales.

The Birth of Artificial Food Dyes

Artificial dye manufacturers have been pumping out FD&C (Food, Drugs and Cosmetics) dyes since 1963. Dyes were originally synthesized from coal tar, but are now synthesized from petroleum.  FDA data shows the consumption of food dyes have increased five-fold since 1955. Dyes have zero nutritional value; their sole purpose is to add or enhance color. Controversy surrounding food dyes can be traced back to their inception; resulting in consumer activists persuading the FDA to ban many dyes. Currently, the FDA has approved nine dyes:

Straight Color
(generic name)
Year ApprovedUses & Restrictions
FD&C Blue No. 1
(Brilliant Blue)
1969Foods generally.
FD&C Blue No. 2
(Indigo Carmine)
1987Foods generally.
FD&C Green No. 3
(Fast Green)
1982Foods generally.
Orange B1966Casings or surfaces of frankfurters and sausages; NTE 150 ppm (by wt).
Citrus Red No. 21963Skins of oranges not intended or used for processing; NTE 2.0 ppm (by wt).
FD&C Red No. 3
1969Foods generally.
FD&C Red No. 40
(Allura Red)
1971Foods generally.
FD&C Yellow No. 5
1969Foods generally.
FD&C Yellow No. 6
(Sunset Yellow)
1986Foods generally.


Genotoxicity (the degree to which something causes damage to or mutation of DNA) studies involving dyes are significantly more negative than positive, and are grossly insufficient considering their widespread use. Dyes are not pure; they can contain upwards of 10% impurities, many of which are known, or suspected, cancer-causing carcinogens. The FDA has a “one-in-a-million” approach when assessing the cancer risk of dyes. However, this is based on each dye individually and not on the use of multiple dyes at once, which is commonly the case during consumption. Also, the FDA’s tolerance processes are based on 1990 dye usage. However, per-capita dye usage has jumped almost 50% since that time. In addition, the FDA does not factor in the risks that dyes pose to children, who consume more dyes per unit of body weight than adults and are more susceptible to carcinogens.

Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity

In 1970, allergist Benjamin Feingold noticed that food dyes could cause hyperactivity and other behavioral impairments in children and adults. In 2004, a meta-analysis concluded that there was a cause-and-effect relationship between food dyes and hyperactivity. Two studies sponsored by the British government concluded that food dyes were a factor in the impaired behavior of even non-hyperactive children. This resulted in the British government instructing the food and restaurant industries to eliminate the tested dyes by the end of 2009. Subsequently, the European Parliament passed a law which requires a notice on dyed food which reads, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”. So far, the United States has yet to remove all dyes from the food industry, let alone provide proper warnings about dyes to unsuspecting consumers. Until then, vigilance and education are the best measures.

Burn Body Fat in Less Time

According to the National Institute of Health, it’s recommended that a person exercise 30-60 minutes a day, 5-6 days each week for weight loss. However, research indicates you might achieve your weight loss goals in less time through a training protocol known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) vs. conventional prolonged moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT).

In a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research, participants with matching body fat percentages were randomly assigned to either a HIIT, MICT, or control (non-exercise) group. Both the HIIT and MICT groups used a high-precision Monark 839E Digital Ergometer Testing Bike to achieve the targeted work of 200kJ (weeks 1-4), and 300kJ (weeks 5-12) using the intensity protocols detailed in the table below.

WeekHIIT ProtocolCET Protocol
1-44-min 90% VO2max, 3-min passive recovery. Repeated for ~29 min. 3 days per week.60% VO2max for ~51 min. 3 days per week.
5-84-min 90% VO2max, 3-min passive recovery. Repeated for ~38 min. 4 days per week.60% VO2max for ~74 min. 4 days per week.
9-124-min 90% VO2max, 3-min passive recovery. Repeated for ~34 min. 4 days per week.60% VO2max for ~63 min. 4 days per week.

At the end of the study, researches found that while the control (non-exercise) group’s body fat measurements remained mostly unchanged, the HIIT and MICT groups experienced near identical losses in both body fat percentage [~ -2.5%] and whole-body fat mass [~ -6.17 lbs.].

Based on the study, you might be able to achieve your fat loss goals in almost half the time by utilizing HIIT vs. conventional MICT. Get in, get out, and get on with your day!