Can red food coloring cause headaches?

18 September 2015
Comments: 0
18 September 2015, Comments: 0

Some individuals suffer from headaches at least once in a year. Almost millions suffer from chronic headaches. Even though there are various factors that play a role in the development of headaches, some individuals often suffer from headaches due to food intolerance particularly to red food coloring.

Classifications of food coloring

Food colorings including the red food coloring and can be classified as either exempted from certification or certified. The food coloring that is made from synthetically produced agents is certified while those made out of natural sources are not.


The consumption of red food coloring can trigger headaches in some individuals.

Red dye number 40 and red dye number 3 are the only synthetic red food dyes that have been endorsed for use by the FDA that needs certification. On the other hand, red dyes that are made out of vegetables, minerals and fruits do not require certification. It is important to note that all food additives whether certified or not should comply with the safety standards before approved for use in various foods.

Can red food coloring trigger headaches?

The consumption of red food coloring can trigger headaches in some individuals. These headaches are due to food intolerance, not food allergy. When it comes to a food allergy, it causes an immune system response while food intolerance does not. In case an individual has an allergy to a particular food or food additive, it indicates a reaction regardless of the amount consumed.

Nevertheless, if the individual has food intolerance, he/she might be able to eat limited amounts of food without triggering a reaction. Aside from the headaches, other common indications of food intolerance include the following:

If the individual experiences a headache after consuming food that might contain red food coloring, check the nutrition label to determine the additives present and limit the intake of any additive that might create red color.

What are the foods that contain red food coloring?

Foods that contain food coloring usually have low nutritional value. The commonly used food coloring is Red 40. Even though some foods still contain Red 3, it was discovered to cause thyroid tumors in rats and was replaced with Red 40.

Red 3 is still present in various foods such as chewing gum, fruit roll-ups and cake icing. It is vital to read the food labels of foods consumed to check if they contain red food coloring. The common foods that contain red food dye include gelatin, candy, soda pop and cake mixes.

Considerations to bear in mind

If the individual experiences repeated headaches after consuming a food that contains red food coloring, it might indicate food intolerance. On the other hand, it is still best to consult a doctor to determine the possibility of other underlying causes.

Other common causes of headaches include visual issues, lack of sleep, medications, excessive stress, skipped meals, hormone level fluctuations, menstruation, long car trips, loud noises and smoking.

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