Red Dye #40: The Colorful Killer

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In the same way that sugar can go by many different names, so too is red dye. Because it is identified in so many different ways, it can be difficult to locate on the list of ingredients. Studies have shown that red dye can be very detrimental to your health. Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana discuss this deadly ingredient and teach you how to find it in the items on your shopping list.


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Tana Amen: Today we're going to talk about red dye. What is you said? They call it dye for a reason.

Dr. Amen: Dye, yes. The red's coming to get you. When I was in college I was taking class on the Soviet Union and my professor, he was an old guy and he was hysterical, but he would chant things. One of the things he'd always chant is "Better dead." Then the whole class would go, "Red."

Tana Amen: Oh wow.

Dr. Amen: Better dead than red.

Tana Amen: Wow. That's pretty intense. So let's start with a few things that contain red dye. Kraft Barbecue Sauce, lasagna Hamburger Helper, Del monte fruit salad, nacho cheese Doritos, Welch's Frozen Fruit Bars, Duncan Hines Homestyle Vanilla frost, vanilla frosting.

Dr. Amen: Vanilla frosting.

Tana Amen: Schweppes Ginger Ale, diet ginger ale. Lipton Iced Tea, the instant iced tea, maraschino cherries, but what about things like Tylenol and children's vitamins?

Dr. Amen: Oh no, it's incredible the stuff ...

Tana Amen: Liquid Tylenol?

Dr. Amen: ... that red dye is in. It's not just Red Vines, although Red Vines has red dye. I'm like I'm a psychiatrist. Why do I care about red dye?

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Amen: Because it can cause all sorts of psychiatric issues and I had this boy I treated once who would just get negative, anxious ...

Tana Amen: Right. You told me about that.

Dr. Amen: ... violent, aggressive and the parents brought him to me. One of the things I like to do with patients is put them on an elimination diet. It's like well, let's eliminate things that potentially could be ruining your life. Off of red dye his behavior went to normal.

Tana Amen: Which is crazy.

Dr. Amen: Sweet, kind, helpful, which is nuts. Then we scanned him on red dye and his brain looked like an explosion. There was just way too much activity going on. Then we scanned him off and it took on the pattern of a much more normal brain.

Tana Amen: I'm reading here, haven't those studies and that question, that's been being raised since the '70s, correct?

Dr. Amen: Yes.

STana Amen: They've been doing these studies and they have been linking actually erratic behavior, aggressive behavior, possibly hyperactivity to red dye for a long time.

Dr. Amen: Right, and not just red. Yellow also has been problematic, but it's the artificial food dyes, artificial colors and artificial preservatives that have been known to cause learning problems, behavior problems, mood problems in some people. Now, it's not in everybody, but if you're vulnerable to this, you have to be super careful, which I would say read the ingredients on labels.

Tana Amen: Right, and it's not just ... So according to some of this research, it's not just the dye. The dye has actually been shown to be harmful and in some cases, because of course the FDA has approved it and of course the companies making these products are saying there's nothing wrong with the dye. Well, after doing studies, some of the problems have not been necessarily always linked to the dye, but some of the chemicals in the dye, that's contained in the dye.

So here's what I thought was really interesting. The food industry dumps 15 million pounds of artificial dyes into your food every year, over 40% of that is red dye #40, so I thought that was really fascinating. Then in 2011 even the FDA acknowledged the growing body of evidence that red dye is a problem, that it's linked to erratic behavior.

Dr. Amen: But they didn't get rid of it.

Tana Amen: But they didn't get rid of it.

Dr. Amen: It's because in the United States if you have a problem, you pay for it. Where in a country like the United Kingdom if you have a problem, everybody pays for it.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Amen: The United Kingdom actually took out artificial dyes and ...

Tana Amen: So did Australia.

Dr. Amen: ... preservatives out of their food supply because they realize that it caused problems in some children, and it's not just children. I had a patient once who came to see us from Minnesota. We scanned him and his brain was struggled and his marriage was on the rocks. He said, "I want you to do one more scan on me on MSG." I'm like, "On MSG?" Because MSG's in everything. They often don't even label MSG. It's called natural flavoring.

I said, "Well, why?" He said, "Whenever I get MSG my temper becomes violent." So we scanned him on MSG. He had a big slug of it. We then scanned him. His brain turned into similar to the scans I've done of murderers.

Tana Amen: That's crazy.

Dr. Amen: I showed him his regular scan and then his MSG scan and I said, "You have two choices. You could hold the MSG or I could actually put you on medicine to protect your temper." Now, in my head I'm going he's going to choose, well, I'll just not eat anything with MSG in it.

Tana Amen: It's too hard. You don't know.

Dr. Amen: He said, "I want you to give me the medicine." I'm like, "Why?" Just what you said.

Tana Amen: "Because I wouldn't want to go to jail because someone put MSG in something."

Dr. Amen: He said, "They don't even have to label it.

Tana Amen: Right, it's not fair.

Dr. Amen: It's often labeled natural flavors. If I'm out at a restaurant and even if I ask ...

Tana Amen: It's not fair.

Dr. Amen: ... and they get it and I explode, my wife said she's going to leave me.

Tana Amen: Right, or you go to jail.

Dr. Amen: I can tell you, if she leaves me I'm going to get seriously depressed because I love her." How unfair is that that things that are being put in our food that not everybody reacts to, but there's a certain percentage of us that react negatively ...

Tana Amen: Seriously negatively.

Dr. Amen: ... to these chemicals. I know some of you are like, "Oh Dr. Amen, aren't you being dramatic?" Yeah, you hear the stories of people who come to Amen Clinics, it's dramatic and it's not necessary.

Tana Amen: Not necessary.

Dr. Amen: Because there's so many other ways to make foods taste great and foods that are clean for you.

Tana Amen: So you've made aa couple of great points with patients that have pretty dramatic issues when they have red dye or MSG and yet, 43% of child-oriented products contain red dye, 43%.

Dr. Amen: Right, they want to make it ...

Tana Amen: That's ridiculous.

Dr. Amen: ... red because red reminds them of Red Vines or Kool-aid or ...

Tana Amen: Then red dye #40 contains something called P is it cresidine? Something like that. Which is one of the chemicals I was telling you about that's in red dye. It's not the dye itself, but it's in the red dye, that's believed to be cancer-causing. I thought that was pretty crazy. Yet even though with all these petitions going around to take it out, the FDA still hasn't taken it out. We have other countries banning it and we still don't even necessarily label everything that has it. At the very least we should be labeling it.

Dr. Amen: The food companies, I think you should put calories on everything because I think of calories like money, but there are lobbyist groups that argue against labeling. How crazy is that? If you don't know what's in something, don't eat it.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Amen: The more you eat natural foods rather than processed foods, the better they are for you because whatever goes in your body, it turns into you. If you're eating toxins or wearing toxins, that's a whole podcast we could talk about.

Tana Amen: Absolutely.

Dr. Amen: And we did in our series on toxins. You just want to be very thoughtful about what you put in your body and what you allow in your children's bodies. Read the labels. Go natural. Why go organic? I get this question all the time, "I've read the studies, organic doesn't matter. It's the same nutritional value." Yes. One is nutritional value. The other is nutritional value plus poison.

STana Amen: Right, pesticides.

Dr. Amen: Right? What do pesticides do? They kill bugs. What is inside your gut? A hundred trillion bugs making vitamins, neurotransmitters, hormones helping you with detoxification. It's critical to take care of your gut.

Tana Amen: There's one more point before we go because just like with sugar, so we're telling them all these great tips. There's one problem. It doesn't say red dye #40 always. Okay? So even if it's on the ingredients, just like with sugar ...

Dr. Amen: What will it say?

Tana Amen: ... that's the thing. You have to know actually what to look for. Just like with sugar, which can have about 14 different names, red dye can have a bunch of different names. How about allura red, red 40, red #40, FDNC red #40, allura red AC, that's a tricky one, allura red AC.

Dr. Amen: Allura, that sort of sounds like a date.

Tana Amen: Right, it kind of doesn't sound bad, right? It sounds benign. How about CI16035?

Dr. Amen: Yeah, anything that says that on a label ...

Tana Amen: Avoid.

Dr. Amen: ... pass.

Tana Amen: Then CI food red 17. Those are a few names that are really going to throw you for a loop because how would you know? They get tricky, just like putting MSG as natural flavoring.

Dr. Amen: What does our friend Mike Harmon say? If it grows on a plant, eat it.

Tana Amen: If it's made in a plant ...

Dr. Amen: If it's made in a plant, don't eat it.

Tana Amen: Right. If your grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food and she can't pronounce it, there you go, right?

Dr. Amen: There you go.

Tana Amen: All right.

Dr. Amen: Love you. Thanks for watching. See you soon.