Artificial Dyes vs. Childhood Behavior

In the past couple of years, we’ve heard that artificial dyes found in foods like candy, cereals, juices, etc., have been linked to childhood attention and behavioral issues. Studies performed on animal and human studies have shown the effects it may cause on children.

In 2021, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) found that the levels of intake for dyes by the US standard may not be safe. This document analyzed consumption levels of synthetic dyes approved by the FDA to see their effects based on data gathered from research studies over the past couple of years.


The population that is mainly affected by synthetic dyes is young children. They are exposed to many foods that contain dyes. Animal studies have shown a link between consumption of dyes and activity, memory, and learning by causing changes in brain structure. Although there are not enough human studies to affirm that synthetic dyes may be affecting children, researchers have theorized that dyes may cause hyperactivity and other behavioral issues in young children.


The OEHHA also reported that although the FDA has a safe Daily Intake number for consuming dyes, it is based on adults, not children. Young children are exposed to different types of synthetic dyes daily, and the study also observed that certain dyes might be causing more damage than others. It has been observed, for example, with Red Dye No. 3, which is found on candies, maraschino cherries, sausage casing, popsicles, medicines, cake, baked goods, and many other foods, that levels already approved by the FDA may be unsafe for children.


Although there has been a link between behavior and consumption of artificial dyes, research on this topic is relatively new, and there is no definite answer yet. This topic continues to be studied by researchers in the US and other parts of the world. However, most of these dyes are found in processed foods, which goes back to limiting these foods for children and adults. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats is one of the safest and best ways to avoid synthetic dyes and consume healthy foods.


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