Red Dye 40 ADHD Brain Health

Brain Health Guide To Red Dye #40

See if you can figure out what the following list of foods has in common:

  • Kraft barbecue sauce
  • Lasagna Hamburger Helper
  • Del Monte fruit salad
  • Nacho Cheese Doritos
  • Welch’s Frozen Fruit Bars
  • Duncan Hines Homestyle Vanilla Frosting
  • Schweppes diet ginger ale
  • Lipton Instant Ice Tea – Natural Lemon Flavor
  • Maraschino Cherries

Besides being an unhealthy part of the Standard American Diet, if you guessed that they all contain Red Dye #40, you’d be correct.

Horrifyingly, the food industry dumps 15 million pounds of artificial dyes into our food every year – over 40 percent of which is Red Dye #40, a petroleum-based substance. Also known as Allura Red AC, Red Dye #40 is the number one food dye used in the United States, found in most any unnaturally red foods. But you will find it in brown, blue, orange, and even white things, too. For example, without Red Dye #40, chocolate instant pudding would actually look green (because there’s VERY little real chocolate in it).

Even though there are safe and natural alternatives available, artificial food dyes are a cheap way for manufacturers to make food even brighter and more appealing when you see it on a shelf in the grocery store. Surprisingly you can find Red Dye #40 in a wide range of foods; candy, condiments, snack foods, baked goods, soda, juice, salad dressings, toothpaste, mouthwash, and even medicine, can all be artificially dyed.

Although Red Dye #40 has been approved by the FDA for use in food products and must be listed as an ingredient on labels, it has been banned at one time or another throughout Australia and most of Europe due to health concerns.

Multiple studies published in journals such as Pediatrics, The Lancet, and Journal of Pediatrics demonstrate that some children with ADHD are adversely affected by artificial food dyes. Other recent research indicates that artificial coloring and flavors, as well as the preservative sodium benzoate, can make some non-ADD kids hyperactive. Additionally, both adults and children have reported upset stomach, migraines, jitteriness, nervousness, and inability to concentrate after a high intake of Red Dye #40. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently released a report that says artificial food dyes pose a “rainbow of risks” including everything from allergies to cancer.

Our brain imaging also demonstrates that Red Dye #40 can dramatically affect brain function. Consider the case of Robert, a 15-year-old that was recently imaged at Amen Clinics. His parents noticed that whenever Robert ate or drank something bright red, his behavior became aggressive and hostile. He would easily cry and storm off in a huff or throw things. They brought him to Amen Clinics to confirm their suspicions that he was reacting to these food additives.


As can be seen on this teen’s SPECT scan, his brain showed remarkable overall increased activity with exposure to Red Dye #40. In the images, blue equals average activity; red equals the top 15% of brain activity; white equals the top 8%.

Once they removed Red Dye #40 from his diet, his behavior improved dramatically. Robert’s mother strongly believes that their experience is not a unique one and that Red Dye #40 should be completely banned from our food supply.

Knowing that you are what you eat, no discussion about changing your diet for health can miss the importance of eliminating this substance!

At Amen Clinics, we want to help you learn more about your brain and how you can make it better, not only for yourself but for the generations that follow. Call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.

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  1. Zoomarjr1 says:

    Great info! Fortunately, I avoid foods such as those mentioned.

    • Ronna Berezin says:

      Daz… first learn that “there” is a place and their shows ownership. Also start your sentences with a capital letter and end with a period. Not that red dye caused your grammatical errors…..Just sayin!!!

      • Peter says:

        Ronna, are u aware that language, both spoken and written, is always changing?
        and who are u to dictate how people should start and end there sentences and why do u care
        Did Daz ask u to be his censor or proof reader?
        Wouldn’t it be better if we all focus on content and aid each other in our journey rather than try to put down those we disagree with?

        • Ronna Berezin says:

          Don’t agree! My criticism is not a put down any more than your reprimanding me is a put down; Excuse me , but I did focus on his comment, which would carry more weight if it were grammatically correct instead of seeming not well thought out. And … do you think Daz was not a censor or proof reader of what he considered to be bad content? Think again instead odf being so touchy in a public discussion where we all have the right to express our views.

  2. Daz says:

    OMG, you quote a commie food police non-science left wing hacks, Center for Science in the Public Interest. They have zero expertise, there run by ambulance chasing lawyers, you expect me to believe a word, there lawyers say, please try a credible source next time.

    • Hanno Kirk says:

      Where do you get this ridiculous idea that Center for Science in the Public Interest is a commie outfit. Sounds like you have some serious brain processing issues, when it comes to sane judgment.

    • BurghBrawler says:

      I think this was a great article with some information for people to stop and seriously think about, and hopefully they will be inspired to do their own research.
      So, Daz, are you stating you are IN FAVOR of having potentially hazardous food dyes added to our foods, or just flaming the one source (of the four sources listed in the same paragraph)?

      • Chris says:

        I’m sorry but I’ve tested out those artificial colors and flavors including that high fructose corn syrup and to me it doesn’t belong in any foods etc! Because for one it can make you sick especially if your allergic to these additives, and I have had a nasty allergic reaction to those ingredients. Try hives and red rashes not including sever asthma! And there is a major difference versus the American candy to the European candy industry! For one there is no artificial colors and flavors including that high fructose corn syrup in anything that is candy!

  3. Dennis Wenthold says:

    Looks like I will have to drop the nachos but it is the only one I have used

  4. Hanno Kirk says:

    These facts about Red Dye 40 have been known for at least 30 years. It is unfortunate that our FDA is so spineless. They are under heavy pressure from the food industry not to ban a munch of substances that have been demonstrated by solid research to have disruptive effects on brain functioning.
    Another food additive that should be banned is Aspartame. It is in all diet drinks. It can be considered a neurotoxin. It is addictive, i.e. you keep wanting to have more. The soft drink industry knows that. When Pepsi temporarily changed to Stevia, sales plunged. So they changed back to Aspartame.

    • Suzanne says:


      I like that you mentioned Aspartame in your comment because I too agree that that is one of the worst things that is found in so many of the things that Americans are offered to eat- especially pointed at our teenagers. Sugarless gum, soda, energy drinks, etc. It seems as though the rise in the number of cancer patients is in sync with the continuously growing number of products these kinds of garbage additives are put into. Hmmm…

      Hope things change!!

    • Connie says:

      Hanno, you are 100% correct on your comment. They have known about this for many years but have done nothing to correct it. The Aspartame is absolutely terrible for us too. I’ve been trying to get my friends to stop their use of it as well.

  5. Ryan Michelle Jacobson says:

    Powerful! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Lori Welander says:

    Thank you for those words of wisdom!! I will for sure be checking food labels for Red Dye #40.

  7. Mary says:

    We noticed our son had a reaction to red dye when we adopted him at 5. We saw aggressive, hostile and self harming behavior – which he did because he thought his brain was on fire. (He used to bang his head hard to get the pain to stop. His SPECT scan results showed that his brain was “hammered” on all sides.) We learned that any food that looks the same way every time, has artificial food coloring in it, because if it is natural, it is going to look different. Nature Valley Sweet and Salty bars used to not have red dye, and then they added it. We asked why, and they said because they got so many complaints about the color changing. I haven’t checked back in the past few years, but it used to be that all Tylenol and all prescription cough syrups had red dye. Our dentist had to hand mix the fluoride treatment for our son’s teeth. It really is in a lot of things.

  8. Crissie says:

    Do food products list this as “red dye #40” in their ingredients?

  9. Sonia says:

    I feel very lucky to know this information in advance. I have always been in a habit of checking food labels. My kids know that they will never get a colorful fruity cereal because it has lots of artificial colors , sugar and preservatives that are bad or other foods that has tons of artificial ingredients. Not only red color 40 is bad but also TBHQ, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, MSG etc. A simple food like a cereal or chips have long unwanted list of ingredients. Simple rule is if a food has more than 4-5 ingredients don’t buy it. Something you can’t pronounce don’t buy it. Train yourself and your family in a way that they have no craving for artificial foods. Instead of candy and snacks offer fruits, instead of soda, offer good juices, water etc. Little changes make a huge difference in our overall attitude. We are what we eat and our body survives well on pure foods and ingredients rather than artificial foods.

  10. Julie says:

    The best way to avoid food dyes is to eat organic fruits and vegetables. Just stop buying the junk. Prepare your food at home. Think of an apple as fast food. It’s just a shift in thinking – it’s not hard.

  11. Pamela Philip Eide says:

    I am 61 years old and have a profound heart reaction to Red dye #40 and a few others. It took me years to find out what was causing my heart to go into A-fib and tachycardia randomly. Now that I have discovered the connection to Red dye #40 and Yellow #5 &#6, I am able to function without these episodes haunting me. I have completely eliminated dyes from my diet. None of them are good for you. We just add them here in the U.S. for esthetics. They are banned in all countries except the U.S. and the U.K. Maybe we should think less how things look and more about what effect they have on us.

  12. adam towe says:

    i am 10 years old and i have adhd and red 40 causes me to act out you know. hi world.

  13. Hodaya says:

    Can I possibly get the bibliography of all the resources/journals/articles mentioned here?

  14. Mommamac says:

    We took all artificial colors out of our diets about thirteen years ago, and it transformed our lives!
    Our youngest son’s behavior changed overnight! He was no longer “Dr.Jekyl/Mr. Hyde” – sweet and cuddly normally, and then unexpectedly out of control. Also, his issues with attention improved amazingly! (He is now a mechanical engineer, and a great guy, besides!) Our other son wasn’t affected by getting angry or frustrated, but he was still struggling with bedwetting at the age of 12. We had tried “everything”, and nothing worked. One week after taking artificial dyes out of his diet, he never had an incident again — until he took a Nyquil capsule at age 17, which had red 40 in it. No more red dye for him! As a consequence of these great results, our older daughters began to take note. The oldest found that her temper (which could be pretty intense) was definitely affected by red 40, and the second one found that her migraines almost completely went away when red 40 was removed from her diet. Neither of them had any type of ADD, nor did our older son. These dyes can affect anyone. I had one pediatrician scoff at my concerns regarding red 40 in medications, calling it a placebo effect. I let him know that even when my son didn’t know that the red 40 was in something, he would tell me that he felt bad from a food. I would look, and indeed! There it was! The other pediatrician applauded us for removing it from our diets. I certainly wish that the FDA would ban red 40.

  15. Wendy says:

    Our adult twin daughters have anaphylactic allergic reactions to it. A memorable time was after the two had visited a well known Mexican fast food” restaurant”. They thought it was the colored taco chips in the taco salad. Both have to always carry an epipen in case…

  16. Lisa Dean says:

    Can food dye be related to depression or bipolar illnesses?

    • Paul Mammen says:

      Maybe. You will not know until you try.
      After a lifetime of being considered a hypochondriac, at age 63 I stopped eating anything made with wheat, barley or rye (all forms of wheat). Incredibly, within a week my sleep apnea improved, and I started to be comfortable breathing through the nose. In three months my prostate hypertrophy shrank (diagnosed back in 1972, no cure). and I dropped the fifteen pounds I had recently gained. All in all there are more than 18 different complaints I had, all determined to have no cause so not real therefore not treatable, that no longer bother me. I went a year on my last pair of contacts because there is no more protein buildup so I never take them out. Cataract in my left eye is clear after 3 years of no wheat and Can-See eyedrops. Night vision improved almost immediately. Long time addiction to alcohol went away in the first week wheat free. Hair is growing back.
      Vitamin D3 at 10,000 iu. a day cured my lifetime of sadness and depression and I stopped needing antianxiety Buspirone in order to walk outside to the mailbox, Zanex made my legs twitch . A friend of mine being treated for bipolar found his lipid panels improved and they were able to adjust his bipolar meds down about half over the last 2 years after he started D3.
      I wonder if the foods that bother you, with Red Dye 40 also have wheat or wheat gluten also? Twizzlers do.

    • Nichole says:

      It gives me panic attacks….

  17. Rosemary says:

    The list of food provided here to have Red Dye 40 is only a sample. i wonder where to find a complete list of food that has this artificial ingredients such red dye 40? Any one could guide me where to find this list? i am 72 not much of a researcher. Many thanks for anyone’s help, please. Anyone to start a petition to send to FDA to completely ban Red 40 from food?Blessings and greetings to all of you who shared their experiences of Red Dye# 40.

  18. Jamie says:

    Red dye 40 would not digest/ absorb in his stomach! About an hour after he fell asleep he would wake up sweating and puke. It didn’t matter what time of day he consumed it. We tried eliminating it from his diet as much as possible. He even got to where he could eat/drink something with it and could tell you

  19. Jose says:

    ok; instead in ” what to avoid” I would prefeer to know what is the “other choice” .to replace all the list of food in the top….
    thank you

  20. Jhampton says:

    I’ve been a teacher for almost 20 years.
    This is a great article. It’s also very true. I can see the difference soon after it’s ingested. There’s no focus and it’s hard to sit still without falling.

  21. Angela says:

    Hi my grandson who i am raiseing was just told he has dmdd and odd and we were told today by a school worker that his sons have similar behaviors and that they cut out anything with red dye in it and their behavior inproved their doctor told them to stop it. So i am trying to find out where to go to find a list of food and drinks with red dye in the them i need a print out of them anyone have one or know where to lool to get one thanks

  22. Scott Vaughan says:

    After our daughter ate some popular candy-coated chocolate candy that I’ll just call “N&N’s” to avoid getting sued, we noticed her behavior was aggressive/confrontation and she was just MEAN. I looked at the ingredients just to note what was in the candy, RED40 was there. Then a little while later we gave her some strawberry ice cream, I didn’t think to look at the ingredients, but the exact same horrible behavior came back. I checked the ingredients and RED40 again. We have since listed this as an “allergy” and screen products we give her for this specific color. Other RED numbers don’t seem to bother her though. Aldi’s has some great products that do not have RED40, we seek them out now. It’s interesting to note that in Europe it’s not as common to see this colorant in food, I guess the government there stands up to $$$$$$$ coming from the big food companies and actually looks out for the health of their citizens. I have cousins whose kids they’ve put on ADHD medicine, etc and I can’t help but wonder if it’s it’s an issue with food coloring, since kids these days in America seem to eat all kinds of junk.

  23. Ralph says:

    Do you have a list of all foods that have red dye in them
    My son has adhd and im going to stop giving him food that has red dye in it thank you

  24. RAYMOND L SNYDER says:



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