Tartrazine exclusion for allergic asthma

Tartrazine is the best known and one of the most commonly used food additives. Food colorants are also used in many medications as well as foods. There is no evidence that tartrazine makes asthma worse or avoiding it makes asthma patients any better.

Authors' conclusions: 

Due to the paucity of available evidence, it is not possible to provide firm conclusions as to the effects of tartrazine on asthma control. However, the six RCTs that could be included in this review all arrived at the same conclusion. Routine tartrazine exclusion may not benefit most patients, except those very few individuals with proven sensitivity.

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Background: 

Tartrazine is the best known and one of the most commonly used food additives. Food colorants are also used in many medications as well as foods. There has been conflicting evidence as to whether tartrazine causes exacerbations of asthma with some studies finding a positive association especially in individuals with cross-sensitivity to aspirin.

Objectives: 

To assess the overall effect of tartrazine (exclusion or challenge) in the management of asthma.

Search strategy: 

A search was carried out on the Cochrane Airways Group Specialised Register. Bibliographies of each RCT was searched for additional papers. Authors of identified RCTs were contacted for further information. Searches are updated annually and are current as of February 2006.

Selection criteria: 

RCTs of oral administration of tartrazine (as a challenge) versus placebo or dietary avoidance of tartrazine versus normal diet were considered. Studies which focused upon allergic asthma, were also included. Studies of tartrazine exclusion for other allergic conditions such as hay fever, allergic rhinitis and eczema were only considered if the results for subjects with asthma were separately identified. Trials could be in either adults or children with asthma or allergic asthma (e.g. sensitivity to aspirin or food items known to contain tartrazine).

Data collection and analysis: 

Study quality was assessed and data abstracted by two reviewers independently. Outcomes were analysed using RevMan 4.1.1.

Main results: 

Ninety four abstracts were found, of which 20 were potentially relevant. Six ? met the inclusion criteria, but only three presented results in a format that permitted analysis and none could be combined in a meta-analysis. In none of the studies did tartrazine challenge or avoidance in diet significantly alter asthma outcomes.

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