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The Sweetness of Seeing Red: How Food Color Could Help Healthier Foods Taste Better

Since food colors can influence a drinks' sweetness, could red dyes be used for making healthier products—or will it take something else entirely?

If sugar is toxic, as Gary Taubes suggests, can psychology and neuroscience tell us how to reduce the sugar without sacrificing the intense sugary taste or flavor?


Well, color could have something to do with the solution, Charles Spence, a researcher at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University who has studied the influence of food colors, tells NPR's April Fulton.

In the case of drinks, by using the appropriate shade and intensities of red coloring, you can deliver about 11 percent more perceived sweetness than if the drink is some other color. So that's important in making healthier products, but also increasingly important in the aging population.

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Of course, these kinds of substitutions raise other questions researchers are still trying to unravel, such as whether food dyes are responsible for an increase in hyperactive behavior, so perhaps it's time to reexamine another, more compelling factor of our behavior—taxes.

Photo (cc) by jcoterhal