Dec. 21, 2022 -- A common food dye found in candy, soft drinks and some cereals, known as Allura Red, can lead to inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease and other health problems, new research shows.

 Long-term ingestion of the dye disrupts gut function, causing a series of changes that lead to a higher risk of colitis, according to the research from McMaster University. The findings were published in Nature Communications.

 The dye is also known as FD&C Red 40 and Food Red 17. It adds color and texture and is often used to attract children, according to a press release on Eurekalert.

"This study demonstrates significant harmful effects of Allura Red on gut health and identifies gut serotonin as a critical factor mediating these effects. These findings have important implication in the prevention and management of gut inflammation,” said senior author Waliul Khan, a professor in the McMaster Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.

 “What we have found is striking and alarming, as this common synthetic food dye is a possible dietary trigger for IBDs,” he said.  “The literature suggests that the consumption of Allura Red also affects certain allergies, immune disorders and behavioural problems in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

 The human diet in Western cultures, with its reliance on processed fats, red and processed meat, and low fiber, contribute to IBDs, as well, Khan said.

 Food dyes like Allura Red have been used more and more in recent years. Their effect on gut health hasn’t been studied much.

Show Sources

Eurekalert: “Common food dye can trigger inflammatory bowel diseases, say McMaster researchers”


Nature Communications: “Chronic exposure to synthetic food colorant Allura Red AC promotes susceptibility to experimental colitis via intestinal serotonin in mice”


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