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Annatto causes MAJOR problems and is a carotenoid Poison/"Vitamin A" used as natural food coloring

If you are eating processed foods that contain "natural colors" and that are yellow, orange, or red, it is quite possible that you are consuming carotenoid Poison/"Vitamin A".

Annatto is a common one, sold to the "health seeker" crowd as better than artificial colorings.  It seems to cause the same problems that many people have noticed that "artificial colors" do!

Not-So-Natural Reactions to Natural Food Colors

As a fairly new mom, I remember being shocked when my sweet 18-month-old son started violently and repeatedly banging his head against anything. Even concrete. Within no time, his sensitive little forehead would drip with blood.I knew something was very wrong, but had no idea what it could be. Was his newfound aggression just a stage?One night after my head-banging son was tucked in bed, I happened to stumble across online testimonies about other children with head banging issues. Strangely enough, their behaviors completely changed once their parents removed annatto from their diets.What is annatto?Annatto, extracted from South American annatto seeds, is used to naturally color orange or yellow foods. Because its properties easily bind to milk proteins, it’s frequently used to color dairy products like cheese, and cheese items like Goldfish and Cheez-It crackers.Unfortunately, annatto causes just about as many reactions as artificial colors, including headaches, irritability, restlessness, sleep disturbance, and head banging in young children.Once I discovered this, I searched our pantry and refrigerator and immediately removed any product with annatto.My son had been exclusively breastfed, then started on fresh vegetable and fruit purees. His diet quickly expanded to include meats, dairy, and grains. But we introduced him to snack foods when he hit the year and a half mark. He particularly loved cheesy crackers. And since it was in the middle of summer, he liked to cool down with natural (yet processed) ice pops.Because they all contained annatto, I got rid of his beloved cheesy crackers, ice pops, and yellow cheese.Within days our son quickly changed back to his normal self. After we saw the drastic change with our own eyes, we were so relieved to have our sweet little boy back.Quickly I learned that it’s very important to know what your child eats – because food can affect little bodies in big ways.
In what certainly seems to be a distinct correlation, hyperactivity, head banging, and restless legs became common symptoms in children after processed foods were introduced to American diets in the 1960s.

Is annatto full of carotenoids?  Yes.  Eleven of its carotenoids are newly discovered!

Composition of Carotenoids from Annatto

Of the naturally occurring colorants, annatto (Bixa orellana L.) ranks first in economic importance in Latin America. The major producers of annatto seeds are Peru, Brazil and Kenya. Commercial annatto preparations are available to impart yellow to red colors to a variety of products such as cheese, butter mixes, sausages and dressings. Approximately 80% of the carotenoid content of annatto seeds is bixin, however, several carotenoids can be found in trace amounts. Recently, fourteen minor carotenoids were isolated and identified by means of spectroscopic data. Eleven of them are newly discovered carotenoids, which may be arranged into two groups: methyl esters of apocarotenoids, and diapocarotenoids with methyl and geranylgeranyl esters, ketone or aldehyde functional groups. Most of them bear the same (9Z)-methyl ester end group of bixin. Therefore, they might be considered as natural metabolites derived from C40 carotenoids by enzymatic oxidative cleavage.

Are more carotenoid-based food colorings coming to processed foods near you?  This is working hard on it...

LycoRed - Coloration Collection

Using a number of proprietary technologies, we’ve built our colorant family from lycopene sourced from tomatoes and beta-carotene derived from blakeslea trispora. In doing so, we’ve ensured that our brilliant yellows, oranges, pinks, and reds are certified kosher and halal, vegetarian friendly, non-GMO, and heat, light, and pH stable.

People still wonder how this Poison/"Vitamin A" toxicity epidemic is getting so bad.  IT IS BEING PUT IN EVERYTHING, that's how!

Maybe you're wondering about artificial colors and how they might be connected.  I'm not a chemistry expert by any stretch, I'm just going to show these connections.

First, to establish that carotenoids are tetraterpenes/tetraterpenoids, that all terpenes/terpenoids are aromatic, and that all terpenes/terpenoids are aromatic. You'll see why further down:


Carotenoids, which are tetraterpenes


Chemically, typical carotenoid pigments are tetraterpenoids


Terpenes are a large class of hydrocarbon compounds


Terpenes are an important group of aromatic compounds


Although sometimes used interchangeably with "terpenes", terpenoids (or isoprenoids) are modified terpenes as they contain additional functional groups, usually oxygen-containing.

So, some research led me to this Wikipedia page on artificial food colorings and their history (have to start somewhere, and Wikipedia can have very useful primary references):

Food Coloring - History of Artificial Food Colorants

Many synthesized dyes were easier and less costly to produce and were superior in coloring properties when compared to naturally derived alternatives.[9] Some synthetic food colorants are diazo dyes. Diazo dyes are prepared by coupling of a diazonium compound with a second aromatic hydrocarbons.[14][15]

Di-AZO dyes.  Aromatic hydrocarbons, you say? Let's look into that second reference, #15.

Food colour additives of synthetic origin

Synthetic food colours are produced by full chemical synthesis or by chemical modification of several precursor compounds and are therefore in contrast to natural food colours, which are usually extracted from several natural sources and purified. They can be classified as azo-dyes (Tartrazine, Sunset Yellow FCF, Azorubine, Amaranth, Ponceau 4R, Allura Red AC, Brilliant Black BN, Brown HT), triarylmethane dyes (Patent Blue, Brilliant Blue, Green S) and chemically related colours (Quinoline Yellow, Erythrosine). Additional synthetic food colours currently authorised in the European Union (EU) are beta-apo-8′-carotenal and Indigo Carmine.

First hit!  Beta-apo-8'-carotenal is a synthetic carotenoid-based food coloring.

Next, some artificial food colorings--diazo dyes aka azo-dyes--are made by adding an AROMATIC HYDROCARBON to diazonium compound.

Carotenoids are also in the group of AROMATIC HYDROCARBONS and are brightly colored!

Are you seeing the connections yet?  I sure am.  It would probably be a very good idea to minimize/avoid/reduce any foods with ANY added colors, natural or otherwise.


Dr. Garrett Smith, the "Nutrition Detective"
Licensed Naturopathic Physician (NMD) in Arizona
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