Wednesday, April 27, 2011

questions about caramel color

I've had some recent questions about caramel color so I figured I'd gather some things I have found on that.

Caramel color is considered natural, but some experts are now saying that it may still have health risks. Here is the basic list of natural verses unnatural dyes.

Here is a recent article that describes some of these concerns about caramel color:

My experience is, well, odd to say the least. You may have seen my earlier posts about anger and food dyes, tantrums and food dyes, or even childhood bipolar and food dyes. We've been a dye free family for almost 4 years now. We also do not generally allow our children to drink soda, so my recent experimentation is limited. We used to allow caffeine free soda such as root beer or the lemon lime ones on special occasions. Usually I noticed my younger two got increasingly hyperactive. I attributed this to the sodium benzoate so they just rarely get any soda at all. However, on at least three rare occasions that I allowed my oldest to have root beer, my usually easy going, cooperative and calm kid had a terrible time going to sleep. He kept thinking he was seeing or hearing things. He was all "edgy," hyped up, and upset without any real reason. After the third or fourth time, we attributed it to the root beer. No more root beer, no more problem. REALLY. We let it slip a few more times, (denial about the effects of food on behavior is normal) and finally decided together (my son and I agreed) root beer does weird things to his thinking. Avoid it and we're fine. I should also mention here that my daughter also has trouble staying asleep if she has any of the food dyes.

Now remember, I'm also a mental health professional. I'm well aware of what these symptoms can mean. It is highly unusual to have such symptoms just pop in and then go away. But then again, that's what happens with the other food dye reactions we've experienced, so I'm pretty confident that something in the root beer does that to my son. He's sooooo good about it now, I just have to brag about his responsible, mature response. When offered root beer at a party, he will just say it makes him crazy so he doesn't drink it. His friends know he has some weird food restrictions, they're used to it so they accept it and move on. We've not had the same response from any of the clear sodas. With more sleep overs and parties, he's allowed to have those and it's not a problem. I also like the new Sierra Mist Natural. Finally something more like what we had as kids. Strangely, my son's had cola a few times (Dad wimpped and coudn't say no) but it didn't seem to cause a problem.

While I'm on the topic, I may as well mention that we also try to avoid all the artificial sweeteners. I've seen a trend in my professional work with children. Well meaning families that consume a lot of Splenda (in attempt to be healthier and avoid sugar) seem to have more than their share of aggitated children. Just an observation on that one, no research to back it up, but I think the general rule applies. A little sugar is OK in moderation, fake stuff/chemical stuff gets you one way or another. So if your kids don't sleep well, once again, check the food and get rid of the fake stuff. You may be surprised at how great your children can be when they eat real, healthy food.


Casey said...

My kids react to both caramel color and annatto with the same behavioral changes and sleep disturbances they experience with artificial dyes. Same thing with preservatives so we avoid all of them.

Becky R said...

I have been thinking about thislately as well, thank for doing some research.