This Renegade Health article shows us 7 toxic food additives we should avoid.
Unfortunately, though generally regarded as safe, many food additives have not been tested for their effects on health over long-term ingestion. The FDA and USDA supervise and regulate the use of these additives, but people who have special diets, allergies, or food intolerance are on their own when it comes to watching out for potentially harmful ingredients in their foods.
Below are seven food additives that you may want to avoid, as they have been linked to certain health problems.
1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
A salt of the amino acid “glutamic acid (glutamate),” MSG is a flavor enhancer used in a variety of processed foods including spicy corn chips, soups, Chinese foods, ranch dressing, sausages, hot dogs, barbequed meats, processed deli meats, and more. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public health published a study in 2009 showing that Chinese men and women that used MSG in their food (via commercially processed foods) were more likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t—even though they had the same amount of physical activity and calorie intake. MSG is also linked with headaches, asthma, dizziness, and tightness in the chest. Look for MSG, glutamate, glutamic acid, yeast extract, autolyzed yeast, autolyzed soy protein, textured vegetable protein, and sodium caseinate.
2. Sodium Nitrite
Used as a preservative in meat and fish products, sodium nitrite is an inorganic compound that helps meat look red and fresh. Unfortunately, nitrites can be converted to nitrosamines, which are known causes of cancer in animals. A University of Hawaii study of nearly 200,000 men and women found that people who consumed the most processed meats showed a 67 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer over those who consumed little. American Cancer Society researchers reported that a high consumption of processed meat over 10 years was associated with a 50 percent increased risk in colon cancer.
3. BHA & BHT
Used to prevent oxidation and retard rancidity in oil-containing foods, these additives have been linked to cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, considers BHA to be possibly carcinogenic to humans, and the State of California has listed it as a carcinogen. Animal studies have shown BHA to cause growth retardation and cancer in the forestomach.
An artificial sweetener, aspertame is sold as Equal and NutraSweet, and has been linked with migraines, seizures, vision problems, itching and hives, and obesity. A study by the American Cancer Society found that those who used the “diet” sweetener actually gained more weight than those who didn’t. A 1996 study noted animal research that revealed a high incidence of brain tumors in aspartame-fed rats. An older animal study linked aspertame with seizures.
5. Potassium Bromate
A potassium salt, this preservative is used to improve flour, strengthening the dough and allowing for higher rising. Most of the time, it breaks down to form innocuous bromide, but if the baker uses too much, or doesn’t bake the product at the right temperature, there can be some potassium bromate left that may be potentially harmful. This additive has already been banned from use in food products in the E.U., Canada, and Brazil. It has not been banned in the U.S., but in 1991 the FDA urged bakers to stop using it. A 1990 animal study found that the agent is carcinogenic in rats and toxic to man and animals when given orally. It’s been shown to induce kidney cell tumors and tumors of the thyroid. Fast food restaurants may use this additive to make their buns appear bigger, light and fluffy. Contact the production company’s corporate office to see if they have gone bromate-free.
6. Artificial Colorings (Blue, Red, Green, Yellow)
Used in all sorts of food and beverages to make them look more appealing, food colorings have been linked with several health hazards. Research suggests that some of these dyes may cause cancer. (Watch out for blues #1, #2, and #3, green #3, red #3, and yellow #6.) Red #40 has also been linked with behavioral issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In 2011, an FDA expert panel voted against requiring warning labels on artificially colored foods, but the majority of the members stated that more research should be conducted on their safety. Look for the colorings in foods like cereals, Cheetos snacks, Pop-Tarts, fruit snacks, sports drinks, lemonade, cheese, and more.
A newer sweetener used in soft drinks and some baked goods, this additive was approved by the FDA in 1998. Considered 200 times sweeter than sugar, acesulfame-K (for “potassium”) has little safety studies behind it. Known commercially as Sunette or Sweet One, it’s sold in packet or tablet form, in chewing gum, dry mixes for beverages, instant coffee and tea, gelatin desserts, and puddings. Long-term exposure is linked to headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver and kidney problems, visual disturbances, and potentially, to cancer. A report published in the AAOHN Journal (American Association of Occupational Health Nurses) noted that additional studies need to be done to determine the potential for damage at high doses.