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Are artificial food colors dangerous to health?

The prevalence of colorectal cancer (colorectal cancer) among young people defined as people under the age of 50 has been increasing worldwide since the early 1990s. Colon (rectum) and rectal (rectum) cancer rates are projected to increase by 90% and 124% by 2030, respectively. One possible reason for this trend is the global increase in consumption of the Western diet, which includes large amounts of red and processed meats, added sugar, and refined grains.

About 60% of the American Standard Diet (SAD) consists of highly processed foods such as processed sweets, beverages, and processed meats. The SAD diet is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

One of the worrying aspects of overcooked foods is that they are so colorful. This feature is evident in many delicious Eid holiday snacks; However, many of the dyes that are added to these foods are synthetic. There is evidence that artificial food colors may stimulate cancer-initiating processes.

Lauren Hofst, director of the Colon Cancer Research Center at the University of South Carolina, is studying the effects of artificial food colors on colorectal cancer. While his research on the potential risk of artificial food dyes in cancer has just begun, he believes that you should reconsider consuming these foods.

What are artificial food colors?

In the food industry, synthetic dyes are used; Because it improves the appearance of food. The first food dyes were made using coal tar in the late 1800s. Today, food dyes are often made from the petroleum-derived chemical naphthalene, and the final product is called azo dyes.

Food manufacturers prefer synthetic dyes to natural dyes such as beetroot extract; Because they are cheaper, brighter and more durable. While hundreds of synthetic food colors have been produced over the past century, most of them are toxic. Only nine samples of these dyes are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, and the number of dyes approved by the European Union is even lower.

What causes colon cancer?

DNA damage is a major cause of colon cancer. When DNA damage occurs in cancer-causing genes, it can lead to a mutation that tells cells to divide uncontrollably, causing them to become cancerous.

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Another trigger for colorectal cancer is inflammation. Inflammation occurs when the immune system sends inflammatory cells to begin healing a wound or catching disease-causing pathogens. When inflammation persists, it can damage healthy cells by releasing molecules called free radicals that damage DNA. Other molecules called cytokines can prolong inflammation and increase cell division and cancer growth in the gut when there is no wound to heal.

Long-term unhealthy eating habits can also lead to mild inflammation that does not cause noticeable symptoms; But under these conditions, inflammatory molecules can damage healthy cells.

Artificial food colors and cancer

Although none of the FDA-approved artificial food dyes are classified as carcinogenic, existing research points to their potential health risks. For example, gut bacteria can break down artificial colors into molecules that cause cancer. More research is needed to understand how the microbiome interacts with artificial food colors and the potential risk of cancer.

Studies have shown that artificial food dyes can bind to DNA and proteins within cells. There is also evidence that synthetic dyes can stimulate the body’s inflammatory machinery. These mechanisms may be detrimental to the health of the large intestine.

Synthetic food dyes have been shown to damage DNA in rodents. Unpublished data from researchers at the University of South Carolina show that the dyes Allura Red or Red 40 and Tartrazine or Yellow 5 in the laboratory can damage DNA in colon cancer cells. However, before we can say that these dyes directly damage DNA, the results must be replicated in animal and human models.

Synthetic food dyes chart

Unpublished data from Lauren Hofst and Alexander Chumanovich of the University of South Carolina School of Pharmacy. The vertical axis shows DNA damage (measured by comet tail method) and the horizontal axis shows dye concentration.

In a controlled laboratory environment, increasing concentrations of artificial red and yellow food dyes cause DNA damage in colon cancer cells. Colon cancer cell lines show DNA damage when exposed to aloe vera and tartrazine.

The effect of synthetic food dyes

Unpublished data from Lauren Hofst and Alexander Chumanovich of the University of South Carolina School of Pharmacy. The vertical axis shows the DNA damage and the horizontal axis the incubation time. A concentration of one millimolar of dyes was used.

Finally, artificial food coloring can be a particular concern for children. Children are more vulnerable to environmental toxins; Because their bodies are still growing. Experts believe that this concern may also include artificial food colors; Especially since they are abundant in children’s foods.

A 2016 study found that more than 40 percent of food products sold to children at a North Carolina department store contained artificial food colors. More research needs to be done to find out how repeated exposure to artificial food colors may affect children.

Reduce the risk of colon cancer

While eating a few unhealthy meals during the holidays does not cause colon cancer, a long-term diet of processed foods may. Although more research is needed to understand the link between artificial colors and cancer, there is evidence-based action you can take right now to reduce your risk of colon cancer.

One way is to get screened for colon cancer. Another is to increase physical activity. Finally, you can follow a healthy diet that includes whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, and less alcohol, processed red meat.


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