It's that time of year again! Colorful confections are hitting the store shelves, and likely your kids, like mine, are begging to purchase those colorful sugar bombs every time you walk into the store. It's such a constant battle that I try every way possible not to take my little critters shopping with me.
But don't get me wrong. I'm all for kids having fun and enjoying the holidays we all remember growing up with. Packaged candy treats around this time of year of are one of them.
I know I wrote about this last year, but it bears repeating. My problem, besides the excess of sugar, is the amount of food dyes consumed. It's just not good. And while you might argue that a small amount of colored candies for a short duration of the year is harmless, I'd like to persuade you otherwise. Artificial colors are a problem, and they are far more prevalent and far-reaching than you think.
Besides Halloween candy, food dyes are used in numerous products aimed towards our kids. A few examples include boxed macaroni and cheese, yogurts, cereals, jello, frostings, and even some snack crackers. Our kids are consuming these additives all year long, with a sudden spike around Halloween time.
Why should we care? For one, they are completely unnecessary, and the sole purpose of them is to sell more product … to your kids. Second, they are created from chemicals derived from petroleum.
Third, and perhaps most important, they can have detrimental health effects on the little bodies of our kids. Hopefully that perks your ears a bit.
A 2012 meta-analysis on studies related to artificial colors and hyperactivity in children found a positive correlation, meaning that food dyes were linked to over-active behavior. In 2007, even before this, a study in the UK showed an increase in hyperactivity in children consuming artificial colors, prompting the government to require labeling and warnings on products. Based on similar studies, Norway and Austria have banned them completely.
Additionally, newer research has shown that artificial colors can increase the risk for food sensitivities and leaky gut. Yikes! How you ask? Well, turns out that food dyes, when in the digestive tract, bind up some of your digestive enzymes, namely trypsin, which then inhibits the breakdown of proteins. These larger proteins ends up in the small intestine undigested, triggering inflammation, which then inflames the intestines and sets the stage for the immune system to over-react to foods. You also increase the risk for malabsorption and other conditions related to leaky gut (poor digestion, body aches, eczema, neurological issues, etc). Not good for our kids.
Personal story alert . My one experience with the detrimental effect of artificial colors is related to night terrors. Your kids ever have one of those? Oh man they are not fun. Imagine your 2 year old screaming in the middle of the night, eyes rolled back in their head, not even entirely awake, and nothing will calm him down. It's terrifying. After a couple of these frightening episodes we traced it back to a source. Every time he had a candy with blue dye, that night an episode would occur. Cut out the blue dye, no more night terrors. I realize this is not the night terror cure for everyone, but do think of food reactions in these cases. For us, thankfully, it was a simple fix, and afterwards we resolved to be more vigilant on additives and preservatives in our kid's diet.
This year, do your kids, and everyone's kid, a favor by not distributing candy using artificial colors. Also search your cabinets, read labels, and discard any products that use them as well.
Thanks to the hard work by researchers and health advocates, many companies are starting to re-formulate their food products. You can, in fact, find many viable alternatives that will be just as unhealthy sugar-wise, but won't overload our kids on artificial colorings. Check Amazon, online organic grocers like Thrive.com, or your local co-op. Better yet, distribute a few toys or stickers instead.
Don't worry, Halloween will still be fun and your little angels won't turn into little devils in the process. Good luck this holiday season!