The demand for natural additives in the food industry is increasing as a response to an
increasingly demanding market for the appeal of what is natural, as well as concerns about the
health risks that some artificial additives pose.
Several studies indicate that there are potential risks arising from the consumption of artificial
dyes, ranging from genotoxic and carcinogenic effects to the development of urticaria, asthma,
nausea, eczema, bronchitis, bronchitis, bronchospasm, headache, reduced blood coagulation,
hyperactivity and increase of iron and zinc urinary excretion in children, even at concentrations
recommended as safe. As a result, interest in the substitution of artificial dyes for natural alternatives
Natural dyes can be classified as tetrapyrrolides (chlorophylls), isoprenoids (carotenoids: betacarotene, bixin, astaxanthin, curcumin, among others), benzopyrans (flavonoids and anthocyanins),
N-heterocyclic compounds (betalains), quinones (carmine), caramel (which are the result of
processing sugars). These dyes confer varying coloring depending on their chemical structure and
class, covering spectra of yellow, orange, red, purple, green and brown. In addition, other dyes have
been studied for their application in foods, such as genipin, which may show staining that varies
from blue to black.
Three important classes of natural dyes that can be used in food and present biological activity,
but have great limitations with regard to stability are carotenoids, anthocyanins and betalains.
Carotenoids are tetraterpenoid compounds, as they are formed by the union of eight isoprenoid
units, having a long chain of conjugated double bonds that form a chromophore system, which gives
it the coloring pigment characteristic that varies between yellow, orange and red, present in various
foods. Various changes in its primary molecular structure, such as cyclization, hydrogenation,
dehydrogenation, introduction of oxygen-containing groups, rearrangements, chain shortening or
combinations of these modifications, result in an immense variety of molecules belonging to this
group, so that more than 650 carotenoids were isolated and characterized, disregarding the cis and
trans isomers, and about 100 of these have already been identified in foods. Beta-carotene, alphacarotene and beta-cryptoxanthin are pro-vitamins A, and lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene do not
have this activity. Because they are lipids, carotenoids are essentially hydrophobic. Although stable
at pH changes, they are sensitive to light and high temperature, especially in the presence of oxygen.
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Ribeiro JS. Food Additives: Natural Food Dyes. Ann Nutr Food Sci. 2019; 3(1): 1040
Copyright © 2019 Jessica Souza Ribeiro. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.