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In the USA alone there are currently around 2000 substances used as food additives, found in the majority of products that fill the shelves of all the supermarkets. They have caused controversies throughout the years regarding their damaging effects on human health.
However, most of the scientists that have conducted studies in the field seem to agree that some these substances that are used mainly to preserve, color or boost the flavor may (more or less) hurt the human body. Others, however, have been proven beneficial beyond the shadow of a doubt (ascorbic acid can actually improve the nutritional value of some foods).
Most additives have been proven through thorough scientific tests to have damaging effects on animal and human cellular metabolism. Their synthetic origin can cause distress and lead to serious afflictions like various cancers, lymphomas, diabetes, cardiac and respiratory illnesses, some even being related to ADHD or Crohn disease.
I will show you a list of some ingredients found in most common foods that you need to be aware of.
It’s an artificial sweetener, most common substitute for natural sugar. It’s mostly found in chewing gum, frozen desserts, sodas, drink mixes and others. Aspartame started getting a bad reputation in the mid 70’s, when some scientists that performed related tests on rats claimed it was the actual cause of brain tumors. More recent animal studies seem to link aspartame to leukemia and lymphomas. Some people have a low tolerance for it, and shortly after consuming aspartame-based products they suffer dizziness and migraines. It’s regularly found in many “diet” products, however its effects do not aid weight loss whatsoever.
PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS
They are mostly used to increase shelf life and improve food texture. They are widely spread amongst processed foods deep-fried foods, baked goods, snack foods, even cookies and margarine. It’s important to know that in the process of making partially hydrogenated vegetable oils trans fats are created as well, which increase the risk of diabetes, heart attacks and circulatory afflictions. Lately more and more companies have begun to remove trans fats from their products, so be on the look-out! Many products on the shelves are trans fat-free!
SODIUM NITRATE (or NITRITE)
It’s used as a flavor and color enhancer (stabilizes the red color in processed meats, preventing them from turning grey), but also as a preservative. It has an antiseptic effect as well, very efficient in killing bacterial agents. Most meats got it: hot dogs, hamburger meat, ham, lunch meats etc. It’s potentially harmful because it causes nitrosamines, chemical formations that cause cancer, in ham products mostly. The alternative is meats that contain ascorbic or erythorbic acids, which are safe and beneficial for the human body.
ACESULFAME-K (aka. ACESULFAME-POTASSIUM)
It’s an artificial sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than natural sugar. It’s a key component to products such as energy drinks, soft drinks, chewing gum and gelatin deserts. Animal studies have provided mixed feelings amongst the scientific community: some claiming it’s perfectly safe and others it can cause cancer. It normally breaks down into a substance called acetoacetamide, which has been proved to cause cancer in lab animals (cats, dogs, rabbits). It’s never found on the labels, but you can spot the substance that goes in conjunction with it: sucralose.
It’s an antioxidant preservative that prevents oils and fats from spoiling. Oxidation causes colour and flavour loss. It’s used in meat products, potato sticks, vegetable oil and even chewing gum. Some lab studies conducted on mice (and other rodents) have shown a possible link between cancerous tumors and propyl gallate. Its presence is often linked with BHA and BHT.
BHA (BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE) AND BHT (BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE)
They too are antioxidants preservative that prevents fats and oils from spoiling, same as propyl gallate. They are commonly found in chips, cereal, vegetable oil, chewing gum; sometimes, in order to maintain the general freshness of the product, they are placed in the packaging as well. Lab studies on rodents show mixed results on the matter: scientists cannot agree on whether they are cancer-inducing or not. They are easily avoidable though, as many companies are using safer products (such as vitamin E) or 0 antioxidants.
ARTIFICIAL YELLOW 6 (aka. SUNSET YELLOW FCF)
It’s an artificial color, derived from coal tar (like most), but not only. It’s used in enhancing the color and general aspect of a certain product, making it more appealing, especially to children. It’s present in baked goods, candy, gelatin desserts, sauces, preserved fruit and beverages. It’s still in use worldwide, even though concluding lab studies proved it was the cause of thyroid tumors in rats. It’s banned / restricted in: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Canada.
ARTIFICIAL RED 3 (aka. ERYTHROSINE)
It’s a cherry-pink synthetic dye, primarily extracted from fluorone (a heterocyclic chemical compound). It’s used in coloring baked goods, candy, the cherries found in fruit cocktails and preserved fruit. Just like the Artificial yellow 6 dye, it’s commonly used worldwide, despite conclusive lab results that have linked it to cancerous formations.
ARTIFICIAL BLUE 1 (aka. BRILLIANT BLUE FCF)
It’s very common in soft drinks, candy, baked goods and energy drinks. It has the appearance of a reddish-blue powder and it’s soluble in water. After proper scientific testing, some have suggested that it raises a slight cancer risk.
ARTIFICIAL BLUE 2 (aka. INDIGOTINE)
This artificial dye is found mostly in pet food. However it’s relevant in candy and beverages as well. Recent lab studies performed on mice proved that this particular food dye causes brain tumors in male mice only. They main compound from which it derives (Indigo carmine) is highly toxic for the respiratory tract, skin or eyes.
The potency of the harmful effects food additives provoke it’s not only in the quantity that the organism assimilates, but also in the mixtures of different additives that can react chemically with each other, exponentially increasing the damage. For example, the combination of Quinoline yellow and Aspartame impacts the cellular mass 7 times harder than each of them does separately. Lab studies were conducted on regular amounts of Aspartame + Quinoline yellow that children usually intake. It was determined that this noxious combination interfered in the growth of nerve cells, stopping their development altogether, also affecting nerve impulse.
Infants and young children are evidently more susceptible to the risk of additives intoxication. The liver in small children is less capable to metabolize chemical carcinogens, especially newborns, who possess no drug-metabolizing enzymes whatsoever.
It’s most important to know that, even though most of the food market is saturated with artificial compounds that are more or less damaging to people, there are still alternatives out there. Few, but available producers, still market bio foods, made with only organic and safe ingredients. They may not be as pretty and they may not last as long, but at the end of the day, they may be the cause you might just live to be 80!
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