Chemical structure taken from Sigma Aldrich website, Allura Red AC
This isn’t another blog post about how bad red dye no. 40 is for your kid. I’m not going to try and convince you that your kids will get hyper, get caner, asthma, or anything else by ingesting red dye no.40. Why? Because I don’t have a clue if it does, and neither do 99%of the people trying to convince you otherwise. Sure, there have been studies done that ‘link’ the dye to all those horrible things. I’m not trying to down play the scientific method or scientific studies. But I am saying that you have to have knowledge and experience in scientific studies to understand statistics. And if you do, then you know there is no such thing as a ‘link’ between two things, in statics there is just a p value. The p value can only tell you if something is statistically significant. It cannot tell you if the findings are important, are theory or fact, those things come from someone’s own interpretation of the p value. Therefore, when a scientist publishes a study and some scared house wife who has a large blog following concludes that this causes that, she has no idea what she is talking about. But you have to put your trust in something. I recommend only believing things you read if the author will be held accountable for their words. Will so-and-so blogger be held accountable for saying that candy makes their kids crazy? No. Will Sigma Aldrich be held accountable for providing false or misleading information on their website? Damn straight. Will a highly reputable and long time chemistry organization be held accountable? Yep. Will Wikipedia be held responsible for providing false information? Nope.
So, what does all this have to do with my blog post? It’s just a disclaimer that all observations and decisions made regarding red dye no. 40 and my child are completely of my own. It is my experience. Here is how it all started:
I was talking to my friend a while back about how hyper my kid can get sometimes. And by hyper I don’t mean running around and screaming, well not all the time. I mean that she has times where she gets extremely frustrated and screams, about things as simple as the wrong spoon for her cereal. She constantly said, “I don’t know what to do.” She paces and just looks exhausted yet can’t stop moving. I couldn’t just tell her to go and play, this would most certainly cause a breakdown. Anytime I tried to Skype my family I had to end up removing her from the room because she was so loud and could not sit still. My friend said to me that her kid was having similar problems and she read a lot of things about red dye no. 40 and being hyper. She said she removed the dye from her diet and her kid calmed down a whole lot. She knows how much I hate when people believe anything they read on the internet. She knows I have a chemistry degree and that I just won’t take people’s word for it. So she said, “Well, it couldn’t hurt, could it?”
Huh. She had a good point. I don’t know if red dye is bad for my kid, but could it hurt if I removed it from her diet? Well, no, I guess! So I did.
I was skeptical at first, of course. The first few days I noticed she was not as intense, she didn’t cry and say she doesn’t know why she is crying. After a week I called my mom and step dad via Skype. I was sitting on the couch and my child was sitting next to me. After about 5 minutes my mother asked if my child was sick today. No, I said. Why? My mother said she has never seen her sit still for this long. I laughed and realized she was right. By this point I would usually be putting her in her room. But, she was just sitting next to me. I said that I stopped letting her eat anything with red dye in it, my mother said to keep it up!!
It has been a few months now, my child is still highly active. I still run and jump and play with her the same amount, but with no breakdowns or tantrums. She still throws fits but not with the same intensity. She rarely says that she is bored and “doesn’t know what to do”. I see a significant improvement in her attitude and she is much more happy and content.
The thing is, I don’t know if it was the removal of the red dye or the improved diet because of it. Removing red dye from her diet was not as easy as I thought. I just assumed red candy. It’s in so much food. But what I found is that the food that contains it isn’t necessarily good for her. Sadly, and embarrassingly, I fed her a lot of junk food. Fruit Loops, soda, juice, candy. I even found it things like gum and boxed dinners. And it goes by many names! Allura Red AC, E129, Lake 40 (or technically disodium 6-hydroxy-5-((2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo)-2-naphthalenesulfonate) Don’t take my word for it, do some research of your own.I realized that her diet, our diet, was terrible! Since so many things had red dye, I had to completely alter what we eat. The easy part was removing it from the house, not buying it at all. The hard part was finding alternatives and getting my kids to eat those alternatives! A lot of fruit and vegetables went rotten because they just wouldn’t eat them. Slowly, surely, and with persistence their tastes changed and they now eat carrots, apples, cucumbers, pineapples, baked chicken, rice, etc.
Maybe it was removing red dye no. 40 or maybe it was the subsequent reduction of sugar, processed foods, fast food. Maybe it was the introduction of so many whole fruits and vegetables, home cooked meals instead of boxed dinners, water instead of soda. I started giving her non food items as treats, like balloons or small cheap toys. She still eats candy, but not nearly to the extent she did before. And yes, I pick out the red M&M’s. I have no idea either if fast food has red dye in it. But again, I asked myself if removing fast food from her diet will hurt her. No, it won’t.
As a parent, I have do what’s best for my child in my current situation. I did not remove red dye no. 40 because I believed that it caused her to be hyper or that it will give her cancer. I removed it because, after my friend told me her story, I started to look at our diet and how it could be improved. I realized that I had decided to just give her a bowl of Fruit Loops in the morning instead of taking the time (time I had) to cut her some whole fruit. That I rewarded her with a candy, every time, because it was easy, accessible and cheap. That red Kool-Aid was a staple in our house because I convinced myself that if there was no red Kool-Aid she would die from dehydration. When in reality I didn’t want to deal with the whining and complaining of drinking just water.
So, I encourage you to remove red dye no. 40 from your kid’s diet. Why? Because it can’t hurt, can it?