Artificial colourants are common in nutritional supplements for a good reason: they are cheap, stable and thus easy to formulate with and give bright and attractive colours. The downside is that artificial colourants can cause problems in individuals, particularly kids, who are susceptible to hyperactive behaviours. Of course, at ViGO Nutrition, using artificial colourants was out of question and neither did we want to exclude any colourant because, come on, we want our products to look attractive! Natural colourants were our go-to colourants.
ARTIFICIAL COLOURS & THEIR DANGERS
Most nutritional supplements, whether in powder, tablet or ready-to-consume formats contain artificial food colourants (AFCs).
Don't be surprised to find them even in products meant to be consumed on a daily basis to promote health.
AFCs are a huge favourite because they are easy to work with: they are stable, very potent (a small amount can colour a lot of products), are very stable in products and are relatively cheap.
You can find them on the ingredient list. Most food and supplement brands list them as "colourant" and do not disclose their names. Alternatively, an "E" number is provided (see below) which is a standard code for food additives. When the names of the colourant are not disclosed then in all probability the colourants are artificial in nature.
Brands that use natural colourants, like ViGO, will very proudly list it on the label.
AFCs to watch out for: Allura Red (FD&C Red 40 and E129), Sunset Yellow (FD&C Yellow 6 and E110), Ponceau 4R (E124), Brilliant Blue (E133), Tartrazine (FD&C Yellow 5 and E102) and Quinoline Yellow (E104).
Some studies have raised concerns about the harmful effects of AFCs on children's behaviour (1, 2, 3). Regular consumption of AFCs, especially in combination of a common food preservative (Benzoates), can cause hyperactivity in kids as it apparently interferes with the energetic systems in the brain (4)
In Europe, the law requires that any product that contains the AFCs Tartrazine, Quinoline Yellow, Sunset Yellow, Allura Red, Ponceau 4R and Carmoisine, need to be accompanied by a warning about their potential effects on hyperactive behaviours in kids.
THE NATURAL ALTERNATIVES IN VIGO NUTRITION
Option 1: cocoa powder
Cocoa powder is used to give the beautiful brown chocolate colouration in our chocolate and cookies&cream shakes. Cocoa powder also provides the chocolate flavouring in these shakes so it serves a dual purpose. Cocoa is a superfood but we don't use it in sufficiently high amounts for these purposes to claim big things about (e.g. superfood enriched).
Option 2: Beetroot powder
Beetroot powder is used in our strawberry shake variants and red drinks (e.g. cherry-flavoured drinks). The red colouration comes from the red pigment Betanin that's in the beetroot. Beetroot powder does not have the characteristic beetroot flavour, in case you hate it.
Option 3: Beta-carotene
Our peach, cocopine and orange-flavoured drinks obtain their colour from beta-carotene. Beta-Carotene is a pigment that belongs to a group of compounds called the carotenoids. It is found in many fruits and vegetables like carrots, mango, etc.
- Arnold LE. Artificial Food Colors and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Symptoms: Conclusions to Dye for. Neurotherapeutics. 2012 Jul; 9(3): 599–609.
- Stevens LJ et al. Dietary sensitivities and ADHD symptoms: thirty-five years of research. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2011 Apr;50(4):279-93.
- Stevens LJ et al. Amounts of artificial food colors in commonly consumed beverages and potential behavioral implications for consumption in children. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2014 Feb;53(2):133-40.
- Stevens LJ. Mechanisms of behavioral, atopic, and other reactions to artificial food colors in children. Nutr Rev. 2013 May;71(5):268-81.
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