Red Food Dye Could be Linked to Inflammatory Bowel Disease


What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. The digestive tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. IBD is painful and can be a debilitating disease. Although rare, life-threatening complications can develop from IBD.

What is red dye?

Red Dye 40 is widely used in many food products, including cereals, condiments, sodas, candies, etc. It is a dark red coloring used to make food and drinks more appetizing and enticing. Recent studies are emerging that indicate that Red Dye 40 may be linked to certain inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease.

Red dye and IBD

One study showed that mice being exposed to Red Dye 40, frequently and for long periods, experienced inflammation and harm to their gut health. It was found that Red Dye 40 disrupts the gut barrier that works to prevent the intrusion of bacteria. It also increases serotonin production, which can alter the gut microbiome and lead to inflammatory bowel diseases. The mice in these studies were also more susceptible to inflammation of the large intestine.


It has been concluded by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the amount of Red Dye 40 that is present in the average diet is safe for human consumption, including for children. It is recommended that individuals consume no more than 3.2 milligrams per pound of their body weight.

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