Seeing Red No. 3: Coloring to Dye For

Seeing Red No. 3: Coloring to Dye For
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The artificial food coloring Red No. 3 has yet to be banned—despite its purported role in causing thousands of cases of thyroid cancer.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Fifteen million pounds of food dyes are sold every year in the U.S. Why? “Foods are artificially colored to make unattractive mixtures of basic ingredients and food additives acceptable to consumers.” See, food colorings are added to countless processed food products to “conceal the absence of fruits, vegetables, or other ingredients, and make the food ‘appear better or of greater value than it [actually] is.’” Otherwise, cherry popsicles might actually look like they have no cherries in them!

I’ve talked about the role of food dyes in causing ADH symptoms in kids. But, what about their role in cancer?

Due to cancer concerns, Red dye #1 was banned in 1961. Red #2 was banned in 1976, and then Red #4 was banned. What about Red #3, used today in everything from sausage to maraschino cherries? It was recently found to cause DNA damage in human liver cells in vitro, comparable to the damage caused by a chemotherapy drug whose whole purpose is to break down DNA.

But, Red #3 was found to influence children’s behavior more than thirty years ago, and interfere with thyroid function over forty years ago. Why is it still legal?

This is an article from the New York Times about Red #3 published way back in 1985. Already by then, the FDA had postponed action on banning the dye 26 times, even with the Acting Commissioner of the FDA saying Red #3 was “of greatest public health concern,” imploring his agency to “not knowingly allow continued exposure” (at high levels in the case of Red #3) of the public to…color additive[s] that [have] clearly been shown to induce cancer… The credibility of the [Department of Health and Human Services] would suffer if decisions are not made soon on each of these color additives.” That was written thirty years ago.

At the end of the day, industry pressure won out. “FDA scientists and FDA commissioners…have recommended that the additives be banned… But there has been tremendous pressure…to delay the recommendations from being implemented.”

In 1990, concerned about cancer risk, the FDA banned the use of Red #3 in anything going on our skin, but it remained legal to continue to put it in anything going into our mouths. Now, the FDA said at the time that they planned on stopping that too, and ending all “remaining uses” of Red #3, lamenting that “The cherries in 21st-century fruit cocktail could well be light brown.” That was 1990.

Over 20 years later, it’s still in our food supply. After all, the agency estimated that “the lifetime risk of thyroid tumors in humans [from Red #3 in food] was at most 1 in 100,000.” 

“Based on today’s population, that would indicate that Red #3 is causing cancer in about 3000 people.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Thomas Heyman and TheCulinaryGreek via flickr, and Mariuszjbie via Wikimedia

 

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Fifteen million pounds of food dyes are sold every year in the U.S. Why? “Foods are artificially colored to make unattractive mixtures of basic ingredients and food additives acceptable to consumers.” See, food colorings are added to countless processed food products to “conceal the absence of fruits, vegetables, or other ingredients, and make the food ‘appear better or of greater value than it [actually] is.’” Otherwise, cherry popsicles might actually look like they have no cherries in them!

I’ve talked about the role of food dyes in causing ADH symptoms in kids. But, what about their role in cancer?

Due to cancer concerns, Red dye #1 was banned in 1961. Red #2 was banned in 1976, and then Red #4 was banned. What about Red #3, used today in everything from sausage to maraschino cherries? It was recently found to cause DNA damage in human liver cells in vitro, comparable to the damage caused by a chemotherapy drug whose whole purpose is to break down DNA.

But, Red #3 was found to influence children’s behavior more than thirty years ago, and interfere with thyroid function over forty years ago. Why is it still legal?

This is an article from the New York Times about Red #3 published way back in 1985. Already by then, the FDA had postponed action on banning the dye 26 times, even with the Acting Commissioner of the FDA saying Red #3 was “of greatest public health concern,” imploring his agency to “not knowingly allow continued exposure” (at high levels in the case of Red #3) of the public to…color additive[s] that [have] clearly been shown to induce cancer… The credibility of the [Department of Health and Human Services] would suffer if decisions are not made soon on each of these color additives.” That was written thirty years ago.

At the end of the day, industry pressure won out. “FDA scientists and FDA commissioners…have recommended that the additives be banned… But there has been tremendous pressure…to delay the recommendations from being implemented.”

In 1990, concerned about cancer risk, the FDA banned the use of Red #3 in anything going on our skin, but it remained legal to continue to put it in anything going into our mouths. Now, the FDA said at the time that they planned on stopping that too, and ending all “remaining uses” of Red #3, lamenting that “The cherries in 21st-century fruit cocktail could well be light brown.” That was 1990.

Over 20 years later, it’s still in our food supply. After all, the agency estimated that “the lifetime risk of thyroid tumors in humans [from Red #3 in food] was at most 1 in 100,000.” 

“Based on today’s population, that would indicate that Red #3 is causing cancer in about 3000 people.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Thomas Heyman and TheCulinaryGreek via flickr, and Mariuszjbie via Wikimedia

 

20 responses to “Seeing Red No. 3: Coloring to Dye For

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  1. I wonder why does the industry think we won’t buy something just because it looks like its natural color? Of all the reasons to keep something unhealthy, this seems the most absurd.

    1. I’m not siding with the food industry or anything, but they do studies on the way people behave, and we do. We unconsciously like things that have bright colors, because to our brains with do not understand fake food coloring, we interpret it as nutritional value.

      Our whole food system, if not our whole society, is one damn big giant lie. Where do we even start to fix this?

  2. Better yet, just eat your cherries in season, or frozen. You know those little red apple circles that used to come on your plate at places like Denny’s? (I haven’t seen them in a while.) Anyway, I know how to make them, if you’re interested – tastes just like the diner ones, but not so red.

  3. This is insanity. But hopefully, if you’re a fan of this site and truly care about what you put in your mouth, you’d never consider eating something like the sickly sweet maraschino cherries or artificially flavored popsicles.

    It’s really sad that powerful lobby groups and big money still have more sway than American’s health.

  4. I haven’t had a maraschino cherry in quite a long time, but I always did think they were tasty. Now I can’t get the “light brown” image out of my mind. I doubt I will eat one ever again. Eww.

  5. Dr. Greger

    I am a CML patient for about 11 yrs and soon will undergo transplant. Can you suggest food that I should be eating more of. I have been a vegan for the last 1 year and always regret why I haven’t consider going vegan earlier. Your website have been very helpful for over the years. Thank you for all your videos and discussions.

  6. i’d love some NF advice here. i am scheduled for a thyroidectomy next week due to suspected cancerous nodules found in ultrasound. i am really concerned about side effects i’ve read about including weight gain, depression, energy loss and a whole lot more. since this all commenced i’ve gone vegan but that’s only about two weeks now. any suggestions? thanks loads!

    1. Side effects of thyroidectomy? If you have your thyroid removed you will most likely be prescribed thyroid hormones to take to keep your thyroid hormone levels within normal range, which should prevent the side effects of thyroidectomy. Great that you have gone vegan. Focus on whole foods- wholegrains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, look at Dr Greger’s daily dozen, and consume no oil, minimal salt and sugar, combined with exercise and some kind of relaxation and you can optimise your health. You may not be able to reverse your cancer in two weeks, but you are on track to the best health you can achieve!

      1. thanks ever so much for replying so fast! i realize i’ll be put on thyrioid hormones is just that i’ve read various horror stories about the difficulty in regulating T3 and T4 levels so i was kinda concerned. i also read (not on NF) about foods to avoid in such cases and found that cruciferous veg and legumes can often present problems while trying to regulate the thyroid. needless to say this bummed me out tremendously!!! any truth to that?

        1. No problem :)

          Sometimes it takes a little while to get your levels in the normal range, as depending how much thyroid is removed, some people have residual function, others do not, and there can be anti-bodies, higher levels, lower levels etc for awhile which can affect time taken to achieve steady-state.

          Yes the internet can be full of fun ;) They usually say that due to the potential goitrogenic effects. There is some suggestion that the foods can interfere with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. However, if you have your thyroid removed, this won’t affect you, as your thyroid hormones with be from an exogenous (supplement) form, not produced by the thyroid. Whilst some people (such as those consuming large quantities of soy isolates and raw cruciferous vegetables) may say they have issues, but it’s far less common than the internet would lead one to think. Some information is here-
          http://nutritionfacts.org/video/overdosing-on-greens/

          I would recommend just making sure you monitor your thyroid hormones and iodine levels in the blood regularly and provided they are in the normal range, you shouldn’t experience any of the adverse effects.

        2. How are you doing? Did you have your thyroid taken out or were you able to reverse? My daughter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer 4 1/2 months ago. She is trying alternative means including diet change to overcome.

  7. There’s a widespread rumor (or fact depending on who you ask) that organic goji berries have red dye on them. It is so prevelent on the internet it makes me think about stopping my consumption of them. An easy test should nail it down.

  8. I had thyroidcancer .I have no thyroid.Do you Think that its good to eat levaxin medicine artificial or to take a more natural substitute….
    Levaxin has a lot of sideeffects

  9. I have Hypothyroid issues and my doctor wants to put me on meds. I don’t want meds, I want to try and heal it naturally. Can you offer any suggestions on how and if this can be done with a plant based diet? I love ALL of your videos, you have changed mine and my husbands lives. Thank you.

  10. Hello all!

    I just turned 22 and have had hypothyroidism for probably five years or so. I stumbled upon Dr.Greger and have read his book and own his cookbook! I am still very new to the WFPB way of life and don’t follow it to a T by any means. I’m gathering as much info as I can and slowly trying to break old habits.

    Anyhow, I’m always fatigued although I exercise daily (mostly walking, occasionally running), get eight hours of sleep, and don’t treat my body the way most people my age do (binge drinking, etc.). I feel that I should not be as tired as I am for my age and my TSH keeps getting lower although I’m on Synthroid (25mcg/day). I will say that sometimes I binge eat junk food, typically at night if I do, but it’s impulsive and sporadic. Despite that, I’m not hugely overweight (5’8″ 155-160, played college softball). Any suggestions on fighting my fatigue using food? I’d rather not be taking Synthroid and would rather heal my Thyroid naturally.

    Thank you to anyone who responds!

    Laura

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