With Halloween approaching, kids will soon be considering bright orange cupcakes and otherworldly candy. Though I am all for limiting artificial ingredients in favor of more natural dyes from carrots and beets, at the same time, it is difficult to prove that artificial colors are unsafe.
Many studies have been done which have NOT shown an association between food dyes and hyperactivity in children. The FDA has previously stated that these dyes are safe based on a 1980s report. A 2004 study from Schwab at Columbia reviewed available data and concluded that neurobehavioral changes may be due to artificial food colors. BUT a clever 2004 study in the American Family Physician showed that parents perceived a difference in behavior after kids tasted artificially flavored beverages, whereas independent observers did not. So it appears that the parents were either not trained to judge hyperactive behavior, or possibly biased.
A year ago the flood gates opened when the reputable British Journal Lancet published a study which looked at 153 3-year olds and 144 9-year olds and game them drinks containing either artificial colors or placebo. They were then assessed by parents in terms of concentration, fidgeting, and restlessness. After this study came out, the UK Food Standards Agency asked manufacturers to pull the synthetic colors involved in the study. Here in the U.S., the Center for Science in the Public Interest is now petitioning the FDA to demand that 8 synthetic blues, yellows, greens, reds, and oranges be removed from the market. Yet the current evidence would still appear to be flimsy at best.
BOTTOM LINE_ To draw a conclusion on this seemingly conflicting information, I turned to director of the NYU Child Study Center and world expert in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dr. Harold Koplewicz. "There have been multiple studies," he said. "There is no evidence that the artificial colors effect children."
Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News Medical Contributor and writes a health column for LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of "False Alarm: the Truth About the Epidemic of Fear" and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic". Read more at www.doctorsiegel.com
Marc Siegel, M.D. is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Medical Center. He has been a medical analyst and reporter for Fox News since 2008.