Misled about Red

Mary-Catherine, Sarah, Lauren, Christianna

There are a lot of myths and rumors about the food coloring Red 40 and its effects on the body. We conducted an experiment testing this theory by comparing the change of mass and pH of 4 gatorade colors (red, clear, blue, and yellow) over the course of 72 hours.  

Hour 1: To start the experiment, we placed 105 mL of each of the different Gatorade colors in each cup. Next we placed a piece of stomach of approximately the same mass in each cup. We then measured the pH of each of the cups of gatorade and then covered each of the cups with saran wrap to avoid evaporation. We let the pieces of stomach sit for the allotted amount of time (24 hours).

Hour 24: At the 24 hour mark we observed the amount of piece of stomach, weighed it, and noticed that the stomach pieces had absorbed several grams of gatorade. There was a significant increase in the mass of each of the pieces of stomach sitting in the Red, Blue, and Yellow. We noticed that the red, however, was not the most significant change but rather the yellow had the most significant change.

Hour 72: At the 72 hour mark we observed that there was mold growth on the top of the Gatorade and that the majority of the color in the Gatorade was absorbed by the stomach. The actual color of the liquid was a murky, milky color while the stomach was a vibrant color. It was also evident that the Yellow Gatorade still had a significantly higher mass than the other colors. However, the Clear Gatorade had pH of 4.84 which was the highest pH out of every color of Gatorade, meaning that the clear gatorade became more basic than all of the others.

As we analyzed the results, we noticed that all of the colors had negative effects on the stomach. The mass of each of the stomachs increased significantly and the pH of each of the liquids became more basic. The mass of the stomach soaking in the Red gatorade increased 22.79%, the Clear gatorade stomach increased 17.05%, the Blue gatorade stomach increased 26.24%, and the Yellow gatorade stomach increased 31.28%. The pH of all 4 experimental groups also changed. The stomach soaking in the Red gatorade had an increase in pH of 0.54, the Clear gatorade pH increased 0.94, the Blue gatorade pH increased 0.27, and the Yellow gatorade pH increased 0.56.

The stomach mass’s changes are important to understand. A foreign chemical, also referred to as a xenobiotic, can enter the body and have a different effect on the body based on the route the xenobiotic travels in. The primary tract for the xenobiotic to enter the body is through the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach through food ingestion. The stomach is able to absorb a good amount of xenobiotic through the mucus that is lining the walls. The xenobiotics must pass through certain cell membranes in order to be absorbed and the mucus is a perfect place for absorption of the xenobiotics which is why the stomach gained mass. The reason each color made each of the stomach masses change differently was because the xenobiotics or the chemicals all have a different, negative effect on the stomach, such as Yellow 5, Red 40, and blue 1.

The pH changes are perhaps a more pressing matter. The stomach has a very specific pH level that must be maintained in order for all of the enzymes in the stomach to work properly. Any changes in the pH could run the risk of denaturing the enzymes which in turn causes a negative effect on the body. In the experiment, the stomach absorbed the chemicals which caused a pH change in the stomach liquid. This change in pH went from the normal 1.7 to around a 4.5, meaning that all of the enzymes working in the stomach are becoming denatured and won’t properly work anymore. Excess drinking of gatorade will cause these enzymes to be denatured more quickly, thus the chemical reactions that should be taking place will not happen.


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