A kaleidoscope colours and health problems in the supplement industry?

By Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD CSO ATP LAB   A state of perfect health requires your diet, workouts, and sleep, to be consistent and in alignment. Using premium grade supplements should be an effective way to make up for deficits in micro- and macro-nutrients---So, a healthy supplemental approach should assure that your body is getting every essential nutrient it needs to function at 100% every day.
Are you aware that many supplements contain artificial sweeteners, flavours, and colours that have been shown to negatively impact digestive health, mental health, and may even lead to health issues like cancer, allergies, and behavioural problems?
When choosing supplements, most people study the medicinal ingredients and price to determine value. This is a BIG mistake! At ATP Lab, whenever we formulate a new product, we first ask the question, “Would we be comfortable giving this to our families?”. So, we start formulation by minimizing non-medicinal ingredients. After all, these fillers, artificial sweeteners, colour additives, and artificial flavors provide no benefit to one’s health or fitness. In fact, the science tells us that artificial sweeteners like ACE-K, aspartame, and sucralose impact digestive health, which impairs the body’s ability to completely absorb vital micronutrients. The current trend in the supplement industry is to hype the bioavailability of medicinal ingredients in formulations and overlook the negative impact of non-medicinal ingredients. This is a poor formulation strategy that can significantly impact the consumer’s health and their body’s ability to absorb and effectively utilize the “bioavailable” active medical compounds in the supplement.
In a past feature article Read article here we highlighted the negative impact of artificial sweeteners, like sucralose, on health. At ATP Lab we never use artificial chemical sweeteners, flavours, or colours.   In this article we summarize the health concerns surrounding artificial colour use in foods and supplements.

Why are food colouring agents used in North America?
A colour additive is any dye, pigment, or other substance that adds/enhances colour when added to food, drink, supplement, or drug. A colour additive is also any chemical that reacts with other compounds to affect colour. The main reasons colour additives enter our food chain are:
  • To replace colour loss due to extended storage conditions
  • To boost the brilliance of natural colours, which makes the food more attractive to consumers
  • To provide colour to colourless foods and supplements
  • To allow consumers to identify products through visual inspection, this usually applies to prescription drugs

One major problem with globalization and the use of food colouring agents is that the legislation concerning food colors varies widely across different countries. Currently, in the USA and Canada there are only nine certified synthetic food colors allowed, of which, seven are for general use. As well, manufacturers can use up to 35 naturally derived food colouring agents, with eight of them for use in animal feed only. Three synthetic colorants (Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) are approved for consumption in the United States and Canada but are currently banned in Austria and Norway. If other countries in the European Union (EU) use Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, the manufacturer must include a health warning on the label. In contrast, 9 food synthetic colors (out of 15) that are permitted in Europe are not legal to use in the United States. Food colouring legislation in India permits eight synthetic colors (one of which is not legal in the EU) and 11 natural or nature identical additives, no inorganic dyes are permitted. Japanese legislation allows use of 12 synthetic colours in food (four of them cannot be used in the EU). Chinese legislation permits 11 synthetic colors in food, of which one (new red) is illegal in the EU, United States, Japan, or India.
Believe it or not, all of the nine currently US-approved dyes raise health concerns of varying degrees. A few examples:
  • In preclinical studies, Red 3 causes cancer and there is evidence that several other dyes also are carcinogenic.
  • Three dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) have been found to be contaminated with carcinogens like benzidine and have been linked to cases of ADHD in children.
  • At least four dyes (Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) cause allergic reactions.
  • Preclinical studies of Yellow 5 showed that it alters genetic expression leading to mutations.
  • Toxicity research on Citrus Red 2 and Orange B suggest safety concerns, but Citrus Red 2 is used at low levels and only on some Florida oranges and Orange B is not commonly used due to its carcinogenic potential.

In Canada, food manufacturers are only required to list the term 'colour' on an ingredients list and are not obligated to specify the exact colours included in the ingredients!

We eat with our eyes Colours are added to foods and supplements only to make them more attractive to the consumer and to compensate for color variations that exist naturally in many foods. This is because colour alters our perception of food quality. Since artificial food colouring provides no health or nutritional benefit, and there is a large body of evidence for carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, neurotoxicity and hypersensitivity among artificial colouring agents, we feel that all of the currently used dyes have no place in food and supplements. Unfortunately, despite a large body of evidence illustrating several health issues associated with common food colouring agents, many companies continue to pump potentially toxic compounds into supplements to make them look more appealing—all at the cost of consumer health.
In all ATP Lab formulations, we carefully consider how your health and the efficacy of our products are impacted by non-medicinal ingredients like sweeteners, artificial flavours, and artificial colours. The research indicates that many of these chemical compounds are unhealthy and limit the efficacy of the active medicinal ingredients. Using such products not only wastes money, but it also contradicts the fundamental purpose of exercising and using supplements, to promote health, performance, and vitality, across the lifespan. This is why we avoid chemical artificial sweeteners (like ACE-K, Aspartame, and sucralose), only use natural flavors, and avoid using artificial colours whatsoever. In fact, we never add colour to our products----so you can be confident that the colouring in any of our products occurs organically and simply reflects the natural colour(s) of our premium formulations.
References: Kolylewski, S. & Jacobson, M. (2010). Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks (pdf.  See:
Oplatowska-Stachowiak M, Elliott CT. Food colors: Existing and emerging food safety concerns. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Feb 11;57(3):524-548.
Sarah Kobylewski & Michael F. Jacobson (2012) Toxicology of food dyes, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 18:3, 220-246,
Amchova P, Kotolova H, Ruda-Kucerova J. Health safety issues of synthetic food colorants. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2015 Dec;73(3):914-22.

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