Would You Rather …Eat Artificial Colors or Artificial Flavors?

would you rather

It seems like an awfully silly question for a healthy food lover, but we suspect you’re doing both anyway. So, would you rather eat artificial colors or artificial flavors?

These sneaky ingredients find their way into lots of foods, particularly when you’re dining out and labels aren’t accessible. They’re also found in vitamins, medicines, mouthwash, personal care products and cosmetics. So, if you had to choose, which would you rather eat?

Artificial Colors

Food dyes sound harmless enough. A little blue here. Some red there. What would Easter eggs be without food dye? Who ever heard of eating a popsicle that wasn’t bright blue, red or orange?

But according to research, artificial colors have been connected with an increased risk of behavioral issues, particularly among children. For children who already displayed hyperactive behaviors, the artificial colors intensified their behavioral issues.

While some colors have been banned because of their origin in coal tar, which is a known carcinogen, others remain on the market, with severe health risks, including allergies and (still a risk) cancer.

Among the most common artificial colors are:

  •  FD&C Blue # 1 & # 2
  • FD&C Green # 3
  • FD&C Red # 3 & # 40
  • FD&C Yellow # 5 & # 6
  • Orange B

Green #3, Blues #1 and #2 and Yellow #6 have all been connected with allergic reactions and cancer in lab animals. Red #3 has been connected with cancer and genetic disorders. While banned from cosmetic applications, it’s still allowed in food.

Keep an eye out the next time you’re at a sushi restaurant for that bright green seaweed salad, the wasabi paste and even the pickled ginger, as they’re all potentially harboring artificial colors. Same goes for jams and jellies, mustards, hot sauce and ketchup, and other condiments served at restaurants. Read your vitamin labels. Make your own homemade mouthwash or opt for an all-natural mouthwash.

Artificial Flavors

We’re a species driven by the tongue. We love to talk, taste…kiss. Of course, all of those habits can get us into quite a bit of trouble if we’re not careful.

When it comes to taste, we know all too well how much trouble that’s causing us now, particularly for our nation’s children. Sugary, genetically modified fruit-flavored cereals, sodas, Pop-Tarts, candy and popsicles takes precedent over actual fruit.  Ketchup covered French fries and Domino’s pizza sauce are preferred over an actual tomato. That the artificial flavor came to be preferred over the real thing is not only shocking, but dangerous as well.

Artificial flavors can contain hundreds of chemicals, and because they’re proprietary formulations, companies don’t have to disclose what’s in them, making it difficult to identify health risks. They’re usually only identified on labels as “artificial flavors.”

While more research exists on the dangers of artificial colors, there are some known risks with artificial flavors, like MSG (monosodium glutamate). MSG can even be listed as a natural flavor, as it goes by many other names including autolyzed yeast extract, disodium 5-inosinate, and soy protein isolate.

MSG has been connected with serious health issues including asthma, headaches, diarrhea, blurred vision and numbness.

Artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, are often added to foods to boost flavors. They’re most often found in diet sodas, but aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are also found in yogurts, cereals, and even in that artificially colored pickled ginger from the sushi restaurant.

Aspartame has been identified as the most common cause for food-related complaints to the FDA, and includes a list of severe reactions from tinnitus and headaches, to cancer and fertility issues.

Both artificial flavors and colors pose serious health risks. And they separate us from a true food experience. We’re essentially eating perfumes and lipsticks. And that’s not food. That’s more or less a fruity-flavored insanity.

We do our best to avoid these ingredients, hopefully. But still, we can’t help but wonder, now that you know where they’re hiding and what the risks are, which would you rather eat?

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: e3

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.