Does red food dye increase blood sugars?

Hi all,

I was wondering if any of you have noticed your T1D child as being sensitive to food dyes and what effect it has on your child's BGs and behavior. Here's why I ask:

This morning I had to take my 5 y/o T1D daughter to the doctor for a rash on her private parts. When we left the house at 8 am her BG was 106 and she had only had eggs to eat and some protein shake. On the way to the office she ate some strawberries, blueberries, and 2 low-carb french twists, total carbs = 20, for which I bolused her. At the dr office, she had a slight fever, so the nurse gave her some VERY RED Tylenol (around 9 am), only a teaspoon or two. At that time her BG had come up a little, but was not remarkable. But by the time the nurse practitioner got in the room, Liz's BGs were over 250 and headed north, while her behavior headed south.

She became completely obstinate and uncooperative, refusing even to stick out her tongue so the nurse could look in her throat. When the nurse asked her to lie down so she could look at her privates, a full-on tantrum ensued. Granted, she's been very sore down there for a few days and has not even allowed me to look at it, so I understand she was afraid of the nurse hurting her. But I was completely mortified at her behavior and at the end of the appt, the NP even suggested behavior therapy for her. By the time we left at 10 am, her BG was 344, and it remained above 300 for the next 90 minutes or so.

I cannot imagine that a few berries and the french twists caused her to spike like that, esp when I bolused for them (and these are foods she eats all the time without spiking). Maybe her BGs rose as a stress response to the doctor office visit and the high BGs also escalated her bad behavior. Or did her behavior spike her BGs?

Or was it something even more sinister - like the red food dye in the Tylenol? I know there are plenty of kids for whom food dye causes ADHD-like symptoms and bad behavior. I'm just wondering if this is a eureka moment for me or if the food dye is totally unrelated -and I couldn't find anything online about food dye causing high BGs - only that for some (non-diabetic) kids it actually causes low BG.

Just thought I'd throw this out there to see if anyone has had a similar experience...

I've often wondered about the sweeteners and also just the ingredients in general. I always buy the dye free kind, if I can. I "googled" the ingredients in Tylenol (below) and found them to be a little scary. We are a more natural family and things like FD&C red no 40, flavors, high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol solution and sucralose worry me! I think the dye free are really not any better besides they just don't have the dye. We really try and avoid high fructose corn syrup and sorbitol or any other artificial sweetener all together.

From a T1 Mom's perspective, I would like to see a kids pain reliever on the market sweetened with stevia, no dyes and no "funky" ingredients. Haven't found one yet! Uuugh!

Cherry Blast
Active ingredients
Acetaminophen 160 mg in each 5 mL = 1 teaspoonful
Inactive ingredients
anhydrous citric acid, butylparaben, FD&C red no. 40, flavors, glycerin, high fructose corn syrup, microcrystalline cellulose and carboxymethylcellulose sodium, propylene glycol, purified water, sodium benzoate, sorbitol solution, sucralose, xanthan gum

Thanks Kj - those ARE some pretty funky ingredients. Thanks for looking it up. Maybe it was the HFCS in the Tylenol that caused the high BGs? As a D-mom, we are much more vigilant than most about what our kids eat and about reading labels, but I've never really given food dye more than a passing thought. We have enough to worry about!

We've been using those flavored water enhancers (the liquid, very concentrated ones) to make juice for our kids, but we recently stopped b/c my husband and I decided that stuff just couldn't be good for you. We have since started using a dye-free powdered juice mix that I found at Wal-mart - in their house brand, Great Value, of all brands! It has no artificial sweeteners (uses stevia), flavors, or colors.

Every day I become more cognizant of the foods we eat and become increasingly appalled at the crap other kids and families eat and the choices out there. I guess if there has been one "good" thing about her diagnosis, it's that it's made us much more hyper-aware of what we put in our bodies, which is good for the whole family.

Drinks are so hard; our family mostly drinks water with the occasional juice with a low. One go to we have is lemonade made with stevita powder and lemon juice - I read recently on dlife that the acid in the lemon helps somehow with blood sugars. My son LOVES them. We also use liquid stevia drops to flavor other drinks - they come in a ton of fun flavors.

Its exhausting to be so vigilant all the time and I wish people were more understanding of our efforts to protect our children.

Aimee,I’m not an expert on food additives, but it seems to me that your daughter’s BG rise could be attributed to many other factors, such as anxiety regarding the Dr visit/ailment or directly related to the rash (illness often brings higher BG).

I agree with Yifat. IMO your daughter's high BG has nothing to do with red dye. I suspect it was related to her fever and anxiety surrounding a visit to the pediatrician. If red dye causes increases in people with T1D, it would be common knowledge by now. I mean, just look at how ubiquitous red dye and food colorings in general are.