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Leaky Gut Syndrom, Tartrazine E102, Herbizide

Leaky Gut Syndrom (Darmdurchlässigkeit) ausgelöst durch Stoffe wie Tartrazine E102 (Lebensmittelfarbstoff) und Herbizide (Pflanzenschutzmittel) führt zu Nahrungsmittelunverträglichkeit, Autoimmunerkrankung, Hyperaktivität, ADHS bis hin zu psychischen Störungen.

Lesen sie auch: Darmproblem: Nahrungsmittelunverträglichkeit durch Darmdurchlässigkeit



Bild zu Leaky-Gut-Syndrom,-Tartrazine-E102,-Herbizide

Tartrazine: Yellow Poison?

Identifying the negative health effects of  tartrazine on the human body

Name: Rahel Ruether and Helene Westerby

Date: Period 1, 2014 2015



Food additives have been used for a long time. They are defined as “any substance that becomes part of a food product either directly or indirectly during some phase of processing, storage or packaging” (“What are food additives”, 2014). Thus, per definition even everyday spices such as salt or sugar are food additives. Though food additives have been used for so long, it was only in 1986 that each additive was indicated on the packaging of foods. In the European Union (EU), the food additive is indicated either by its name or with an E number. An E number means that the EU has approved it for its intended use and can thus be used in foods across the EU (Illing, 2014).

In this paper, the main focus will be artificial colourants and more specifically, tartrazine. Under discussion will be the research question of what are the negative health effects of tartrazine in food on the human body? To go about answering this question, tartrazine will first be described and defined, then studies and experiments on the subject will be explained and discussed relating to the research question. Subsequently, we will illustrate what kind of effects tartrazine consumption can have on various neurotransmitter whose malfunction may have negative health effects on certain people. Finally conclusions will be drawn.



Tartrazine is a commonly used food colourant which creates a yellow color. Its E number is E102 which in Europe or within the European Union (EU) can be seen on many different packagings of foods containing tartrazine. Specifically it is found in foods, cosmetics, and beauty products, and in its basic form it is a yellow powder manufactured from coal tar (Botes, 2011). It is banned in Norway and Austria for having potential side effects such as asthma attacks, eczema, hives, DNA damage, and ADHD or hyperactivity (“E102 Tartrazine side effects, 2014). Its chemical formula is C16H9N4Na3O9S3 and its chemical structure can be seen in the picture below.

chemical structure of tartrazine - Bild zu Leaky Gut Syndrom, Tartrazine E102, Herbizide

Figure 1: Chemical structure of tartrazine

As can be seen in Figure 1 of the structure of tartrazine, there is a pair of double bonded Nitrogen atoms in the heart of the molecule. This double bond is what makes tartrazine an Azo dye, meaning that the structure of the molecule is perfect for enabling delocalised electrons. The molecule does this by each nitrogen atom being “linked to a different organic group”. The delocalisation of electrons “gives molecules a tendency to have a strong interaction with light, and hence can have a powerful colouring effect” (Clegg, n.d.). This is why tartrazine is used so often. However, people are aware of the possible side effects of consuming tartrazine, hence the ban against it in Norway and Austria as mentioned previously. However, scientists continue to use it because it provides such a bright color, it is more stable than other possible colourants, and it is cheaper to use (Clegg, n.d.). Tartrazine is for example fed to chickens to make their egg yolks brighter and thus seem more appealing to consumers (Botes, 2011). Additionally, the FDA has decidedthat the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of tartrazine is 07.5 milligrams per kilo. For example, if someone weighed 75kg, they would have to drink 19 cans of diet soda to go reach the maximum ADI (“Scientific opinion on the reevaluation of tartrazine”, 2009).



Most research on the health effects generated by tartrazine concludes that tartrazine or synthetic food colorings or additives in general tend to only affect certain already susceptible people. Equally as many studies concerned themselves with how tartrazine consumption alters behavioural processes, especially in children. So did Rowe and Rowe (1994) when they conducted a doubleblinded placebocontrolled experiment with 200 children in the Royal Children’s hospital in Melbourne. During this 6week trial, the children were following a diet free of artificial food coloring. 150 of the children’s parents noted improvements in behaviour whilst abstaining from synthetic food colorants. Parallel to that, 50 children were orally administered with a certain dose (1,2,5,10,20,50 mg) of tartrazine each morning for 21 days. The children participating in this part of the study were, following their clinical reports, considered to be “suspected reactors”. In the end, 24 children were diagnosed as being definite reactors. Their parents reported back that “they were irritable and restless and had sleep disturbance.” Furthermore a response to certain doses was identified, meaning that with a dose higher than 10mg, the negative health effects were prolonged.

In accordance with the findings of that study are statements disclosed by “members of the food commission’s parents jury”. One of the parents observed that his or her child reacted strongly to the soft drink Sunny Delight (containing a synthetic orange colour). “After drinking it he changed from being a lively, yet pleasing child, to one unable to calmhimself […] and respond to direction.” The statements were all surprisingly similar withmany people reporting “eczema flare ups, behaviour and sleep problems” after havingconsumed some kind of drink or snack containing synthetic food colourants (“Parents say that food does affect their children’s behaviour”, 2003).

Coming back to the assumption that only certain people are likely to react to artificial food colorants, Deans (2010) states that “a few genes have been found in some families that seem to explain the symptoms” and that “azo food dyes are known to cause allergic reactions in susceptible people”. She further suspects a connection to dopamine transporter and receptor genes and that an exposedness to synthetic food colorants may lead to a release of histamine in some children, “not where there is a full allergic reaction but where it could affect behaviour” (Deans, 2010). Histamine could possibly affect behavioural processes since the H3 (Histamine) receptor is located in the brain.



In order to be able to demonstrate how tartrazine as an example for artificial food dyes in general can have a negative impact on behaviour, we will explain how one certain health condition is likely to trigger strong reactions in response to tartrazine. The condition that will be evaluated and discussed is known as leaky gut syndrome, increased intestinal permeability or malabsorption syndrome which occurs when tissue in the small intestine becomes inflamed, causing it to expand and swell. This also produces holes in between each of the cells in the intestinal mucosa (Resnick, 2010). Hence, undigested food particles, bacterial enzymes, toxic waste products, viruses etc. may leak into the bloodstream. In a healthy gastrointestinal system, food is broken down into individual molecules and absorbed from cell to cell to cell until the it reaches the bloodstream. In an unhealthy gastrointestinal system, foods that have not been fully broken down pass through the holes between cells. With increased intestinal permeability, the net of cells is damaged and so the holes are becoming larger, hence allowing even more food that has not been broken down to pass through than normal (Chutkan, 2013).

leaky gut syndrome effects - Bild zu Leaky Gut Syndrom, Tartrazine E102, Herbizide

Figure 2: Leaky gut syndrome effects

In the bloodstream, the body will not recognize undigested foods or bacterial enzymes as it looks for the basic components of food such as minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, amino acids and sugars, in form of separate molecules however, not as molecules that are bunched together. Once the body finds the problem it will call on the immune system to take action, with the result being inflammation. This can cause various symptoms such as rashes, bloating, cramps or fatigue. Food sensitivities are another indication of leaky gut syndrome. Partially absorbed food particles may get into the bloodstream where they cause allergic responses. Leaky gut syndrome may either be genetic or caused through various other factors such as following a diet high in refined sugar which can cause yeast species to overgrow. Synthetic food additives and chemicals may also damage the gastrointestinal wall.

crystallographic structure of human histamine N-methyltransferase - Bild zu Leaky Gut Syndrom, Tartrazine E102, Herbizide

Figure 3: Crystallographic structure of human histamine Nmethyltransferase

Another health condition possibly triggering negative health effects of tartrazine and other synthetic food dyes concerns the enzyme activity of histamineNmethyltransferase (HNMT), an enzyme coded by the HNMT gene. HNMT is responsible for the metabolization of histamine, together with diamine oxidase. The HNMT enzyme activity can either be temporarily impaired because of certain drug or artificial food additives or permanently for genetic reasons. HNMT gene variants are actually quite common amongst people. However, several studies came to conflicting results regarding the clinical relevance of HNMT gene defects (“HNMT degradation disorder”, 2014).




Histamine is a natural substance which, in the human or animal body acts as a tissue hormone and neurotransmitter (“Histamine”, 2014). In humans and other mammals, histamine plays a central role in allergic reactions and the immune system, i.e. taking part in the defense of foreign substances. Histamine serves as one of the mediators in inflammatory response, causing a swelling of tissue. It furthermore acts as an important regulator in the gastrointestinal tract, in the regulation of gastric acid production and motility as well as in the central nervous system, controlling the circadian rhythm and appetite control. Biochemically, it is a biogenic amine like Serotonin, Adrenalin, Noradrenalin, Dopamine, Octopamine and Tyramine. It is formed by eliminating carbon dioxide from the amino acid histidine and is primarily stored in mast cells, basophiles and neurons. A heightened concentration of histamine can be found the socalled mast cells, basophiles, mucous membranes of the bronchi and in the gastrointestinal tract. In these cells, histamine in vesicles is bound to heparin and stored. During igEmediated allergic reactions, histamine is released from these vesicles. Not only tissue hormones can cause a release of histamine, but also synthetic food colorings or other additives. Other important storage locations of histamine are the ECL cells of the gastric mucosa, from which histamine can be set free through hormones such as gastrin acetylcholine.

Through the activation of H1 receptors in the central nervous system, Histamine is involved in initiating vomiting as well as in the regulation of the circadian cycle (based on findings of animal experiments) (Wilkie, 2003). Through inhibition of neurotransmitter release in the central and peripheral nervous system, histamine has a regulatory effect on noradrenergic, serotonergic, cholinergic, dopaminergic and glutamatergic neurons. Hence, it indirectly affects those neurotransmitters.


Serotonin is a tissue hormone and neurotransmitter. It for instance occurs in the central nervous system, the enteric nervous system, the cardiovascular system and in blood. One one its functions is to act on the gastrointestinal activity and signal transmission in the central nervous system. Serotonin is largely (75%) absorbed by the bloodstream and after having been metabolized, excreted through the urine (“Serotonin, 2014).

One of the most widely known effects of Serotonin on the central nervous system include its moodimpacting characteristics. Increased Serotonin levels in the brain due to, for instance, an overdose of Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, lead to restlessness and hallucinations (Serotonin, 2014). Neurochemically, depressive sentiments can often be ascribed to a lack of serotonin or its precursor, the amino acid tryptophan. A lack of Serotonin may also lead to anxiety and impulsive aggression.


Dopamine is a biogenic amine from the group of catecholamines and an important neurotransmitter. In the vernacular it is often known as the happiness hormone. (Erickson, 2014) It is however believed that the psychotropic importance of dopamine mainly concerns drive and motivation increase. Dopaminergic neurons are located in the central nervous system, especially in the midbrain. Important dopaminergic systems rise from the midbrain up to the telencephalon and diencephalon. Dopamine also acts as a neurotransmitter in the autonomic nervous system where it regulates blood flow to the organs. It is required for a variety of essential control and regulation operations.


Adrenaline is one a hormone formed in the adrenal medulla. In stressful situations, it is discharged into the bloodstream. As a stress hormone, adrenaline mediates an increase in heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, an extension of the bronchioles, rapid deployment of energy reserves from fat (lipolysis) as well as the release and biosynthesis of glucose. It furthermore regulates blood circulation (centralization) and the gastrointestinal activity neurons. In the central nervous system Adrenaline acts as a neurotransmitter in adrenergic neurons. Its effects are mediated via activation of Gprotein coupled receptors, referred to as adrenergic receptors (Goldstein, 2010).


As mentioned beforehand, Histamine is intracellularly metabolized by histamine-N-methyltransferase (HNMT) and extracellularly by the enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO). Synthetic food colorants/additives may inhibit the activity of HNMT and DAO by blocking the binding site of the enzyme so that Histamine cannot reach the active centrum of HNMT. This leads to the fact that histamine may only be partially degraded (“HNMT degradation disorder”, 2014). To that he body responds with a pseudoallergic reaction. Pseudoallergy denotes an intolerance reaction which strongly resembles a classic allergic reaction (“immediate type”), however there is no immunological reaction detectable in pseudo allergies. The most common triggers are drugs and food additives.

A healthy gastro intestinal tract produces tryptophan, which is the precursor of serotonin. However, if the interaction is defective (e.g. due to increased intestinal permeability) not enough tryptophan or serotonin is produced which leads to the fact that melatonin is not properly absorbed anymore. The consequence of this is that stress hormones such as Adrenaline, Noradrenaline and also Dopamine are being generated and increase. (Rüther, 2013) Serotonin is said to have a decisive influence of the mood. Serotonin deficiency is therefore also associated with the development of depression. A lack of serotonin in the brain can be linked to symptoms of depression, anxiety, aggression or an increase in appetite. Furthermore, the sleepwake cycle, body temperature, sexual behavior, pain perception and development of migraine are regulated by serotonin. With a lack of serotonin, these aspects may be in imbalance (“Serotonin Metabolism”, 2014). It the serotonin deficiency is not catered for and stress hormones are present in too high amounts, the body will find itself in a situation of constant stress, activation and tension; symptoms which can easily be attributed to people suffering from some form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


In terms of whether or not artificial colourants such as tartrazine have negative health effects is hard to know. Though many studies have been made to see if there is a correlation between artificial colourants and for example increased child hyperactivity, there are so many confounding variables that can distort the result of such studies (Illing & More, 2014). Tartrazine or artificial food dyes in general are said to cause an array of different health problems such as eczema, asthma, and hyperactivity. In the case of tartrazine the various reactions it can call forth may also depend on whether it is topically applied (in cosmetic products etc.) or ingested (foods containing tartrazine). A limitation of this paper is that the word count was limited resulting in only a few of the health problems to be discussed. Despite the limitation, it was still found that food colourants have effects on human health, though mostly in already susceptible people. We presented two of the most researched health conditions that are likely to trigger strong reactions in response to synthetic food additives, increased intestinal permeability and variants in histamine nmethyltransferase. With numerous foods containing tartrazine or other artificial substances, we suggest conducting more indepth biological studies on the effects of synthetic food additives on the gastrointestinal tract and neurotransmitter system.


Reference List

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Chutkan, R. K. (2013). Could leaky gut be what’s troubling you? , from http://www.doctoroz.com/article/couldleakygutbetroublingyou

Clegg, B. (n.d.) Chemistry in its element tartrazine. Introducing Chemistry.

Deans, E. (2010). ADHD, Food Additives, and Histamine. Retrieved from http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.nl/2010/09/adhdfoodadditivesandhistamine.html

Erickson, C. (2014). Dopamine A sample neurotransmitter. from http://www.utexas.edu/research/asrec/dopamine.html

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Goldstein, D. S. (2010). Adrenaline and noradrenaline. Illing, P. (2014). Food Additives. Retrieved October 11, 2014, from http://www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/foodadditives.html

Histamine. (2014) Encyclopædia Britannica. HNMT degradation disorder („cellular Histaminosis“). (2014). from http://www.histaminintoleranz.ch/histaminose_hnmtabbaustoerung.html

Resnick, C. (2010). Nutritional protocol for the treatment of intestinal permeability defects and related conditions. Natural Medicine Journal, 2(3).

Rüther, Uwe, R. (2013). No Title. Retrieved from http://www.naturpraxis-ruether.de/aktuelles/

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Rowe, K. S., & Rowe, K. J. (1994). Synthetic food coloring and behavior: a dose response effect in a doubleblind, placebocontrolled, repeatedmeasures study. The Journal of Pediatrics, 125(5), 691698.

Wilkie, D. J. (2003). Comfort: Pain Mechanisms. from http://www.tneel.uic.edu/tneelss/demo/comfort/outline3.asp What are food additives? (2014). In I. F. A. Council (Ed.).