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If there is one subject that people tend to enjoy, it’s talking about food. It doesn’t matter if it is saying good things or bad things about food. Our conversations tend to go in that direction.

One of the food subjects we may sometimes hear about is regarding food dye. Some people have been known to speak negatively about it, saying it may cause a variety of problems. Some of those suggestions have now been given teeth.

Photo: Flickr/Rachel Kramer Bussel License: CC BY 2.0

According to a study by Cornell and Binghamton University researchers, food dyes may cause problems with your digestive system. More specifically, they can damage the system and keep you from absorbing essential proteins.

Food coloring is often used in some types of food with a visual appeal, such as candy. It may surprise you to learn, however, that it is found in many different types of foods, including chips, drinks, and even some medications.

In a press release, the senior author of the study, Elad Tako, said: “We found that specific nanoparticles – titanium dioxide and silicon dioxide – ordinarily used in food may negatively affect intestinal functionality. They have a negative effect on key digestive and absorptive proteins.”

Photo: Flickr/Bethany King License: CC BY-ND 2.0

The study used a standard amount of silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide in the study, which they referred to as being ‘human-relevant doses’. Chicken eggs were used in the study as they would respond similarly to humans.

Food dye nanoparticles were injected into the eggs. Once they hatched, the chicks were tested, and they found changes in the blood and intestines on a cellular level. This is similar to what might happen to a human.

Experts consider this significant but aren’t yet sending out a warning. Before they raise too many red flags, they will have to do more research.

Photo: Flickr/Selena N. B. H. License: CC BY 2.0

Tako said: “We are consuming these nanoparticles on a daily basis. We don’t really know how much we consume; we don’t really know the long-term effects of this consumption.”

In the past, Red 40 has come under a microscope in some studies. The FDA says we should not consume more than 3.2mg per pound of our body weight.

A study from last year looked into the adverse effects of Red 40 (Allura red) on the digestive tract. According to researchers from McMaster University, Red 40 could trigger IBS or Crohn’s disease.

More research has to be done on the subject, but this is certainly a space worth watching.