Here’s a list of some of the most medically questionable and harmful additives in everyday foods:
- Sodium nitrite
- BHA & BHT
- Propyl gallate
- Monosodium glutamate
- Trans fats
- Food colorings (Blue, Red, Green, Yellow)
- Potassium bromate
- White sugar
- Sodium chloride (salt)
Since some of these may not be familiar to you, sodium nitrite is a preservative added most commonly to bacon, ham, hot dogs, sandwich meats, and smoked fish. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are other preservatives added to foods like cereal, gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. Propyl gallate is found in meats, chicken soup base, and gum. All of these preservatives have been linked to cancer.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can cause migraines and other adverse effects. Trans fats are being eliminated from most foods, as the studies linking them to heart disease, strokes, and kidney problems are widely accepted.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener found in products like NutraSweet and Equal as well as diet foods and soft drinks. And acesulfame-K is a newer sweetener used in soft drinks and some baked goods.
Many food colorings have been banned by the FDA, but some can still be found in foods that require a particular color. Olestra was common for a time in potato chips as an additive that prevented fat from being absorbed in your digestive system. Food colorings have been tied to cancer and Olestra also blocks vitamins from being processed.
Potassium bromate is sometimes added to white flour, breads, and rolls to increase the volume of the products, but it has cancer-causing properties that have prompted some states in America to actually require a label to that effect.
Finally, white sugar and sodium chloride (salt) can be dangerous if not kept to a minimum.
More than 3,000 food additives -- preservatives, flavorings, colors and other ingredients -- are added to foods in the United States. While each of these substances are legal to use, whether or not they are entirely safe for long-term consumption -- by themselves or in combination -- is a different story altogether.
And when you consider that 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food goes toward processed foods that are loaded with these additives, you get an idea of just how many toxins you may be polluting in your body with.
When foods are processed not only are valuable nutrients lost and fibers removed, but the texture, natural variation and flavors are lost also. After processing, what's actually left behind is a bland, uninteresting "pseudo-food"
At this point, food manufacturers must add back in the nutrients, flavor, color and texture to processed foods in order to make them palatable, and this is why they become loaded with food additives.
Many Food Additives Increase Your Risk of Cancer
Nine of the 12 food additives listed above have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. These include:
1. Sodium Nitrate (also called Sodium Nitrite)
2. BHA and BHT
3. Propyl Gallate
4. Trans Fats
8. Food Colorings (Blue 1, 2, Red 3, Green 3, Yellow 6)
9. Potassium Bromate
Please understand that these additives are in countless products from baked goods and chewing gum to chicken soup base, cereal, luncheon meats, vegetable oils and potato chips. If you eat a highly processed food diet, you are therefore potentially exposing yourself to cancer-causing toxins at every meal!
Food Additives May Mimic Your Hormones
A recent analysis published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology found 31 potential estrogen-mimicking food additives (called xenoestrogens) after searching a food additive database of 1,500 substances.
These xenoestrogens have been linked to a range of human health effects, including reduced sperm counts in men and increased risk of breast cancer in women.
Among the xenoestrogens revealed were propyl gallate, which acts as an antagonist, and 4-hexylresorcinol, which is a potent transactivator. Antagonists block the binding of an agent at a receptor molecule, and transactivators increase the rate of gene expression. In conclusion the authors' state:
"Some caution should be issued for the use of propyl gallate and 4-hexylresorcinol as food additives."
Propyl gallate is frequently used in conjunction with BHA and BHT, which come with their own set of health hazards. These two additives also keep fats and oils from going rancid and are commonly used in processed food products such as cereals and potato chips, even though some studies have found they too, cause cancer in rats.
The other food additive mentioned above, 4-hexylresorcinol, is commonly used as an anti-browning agent in shrimp and other shellfish.
Your Behavior and Mood May be Impacted Too
According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, high sugar content and starchy carbohydrates (common in processed foods) lead to excessive insulin release, which in turn leads to falling blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia causes your brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, panic attacks and an increase in suicide risk.
The glutamate that causes this is identical to the flavor-enhancing monosodium glutamate (MSG) and its chemical cousins, which are found in thousands of food products, further exacerbating the problem.
Further, a study published in the journal The Lancet concluded that a variety of common food dyes, and the preservative sodium benzoate -- found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings -- cause some children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible.
The study also found that the E-numbered food dyes (such as tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129) do as much damage to children's brains as lead in gasoline, resulting in a significant reduction in IQ.
The results of this study have prompted the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue an immediate advisory to parents, warning them to limit their children's intake of additives if they notice an effect on behavior. They're also advising the food industry to voluntarily remove the six food dyes named in the study by the end of 2009, and replace them with natural alternatives if possible.
The United States, however, has not followed suit in issuing any similar warnings to American parents.
How to Avoid Food Additives
One of the best ways to avoid food additives is to cut way back on the processed foods in your diet and instead focus your meals on whole foods. If you do eat processed foods, choose organic varieties and make sure to read the label and avoid foods that contain numerous additives.
By keeping your diet as pure as possible, you're giving your body the nutrients it needs without all of the added toxins it definitely doesn't.
Ideally you, your spouse, or someone you pay would freshly prepare your food and you can avoid processed foods. Also recognize that when you eat out at a restaurant you are losing virtually all of the control of the quality of your food.
While this is typically socially enjoyable, tasty, and easier than preparing your own food, it frequently results in you exchanging convenience for your health.