Thanks to Jean Wiess, regular contributor to MSN Health & Fitness, for compiling the following list of food additives that should be avoided. Seven of the twelve additives have been linked to an increased risk in cancer.
The best way to avoid these food additives is to avoid packaged foods and make it yourself. Prepared foods provide Questionable Convenience at best. They are more costly and do not provide significant time savings for the money. In addition, you could be exposing yourself and your family to these beauties:
- Sodium nitrite * – Commonly added to bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish, and corned beef to stabilize the red color and add flavor. Sodium nitrite is used primarily in fatty, salty foods. Without nitrite, hot dogs and bacon would look gray. Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?
- BHA & BHT * - Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are antioxidants used to preserve common household foods by preventing them from oxidizing. Both keep fats and oils from going rancid and are found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers BHA to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration still permits BHA to be used in foods. This synthetic chemical can be replaced by safer chemicals (e.g., vitamin E), safer processes (e.g., packing foods under nitrogen instead of air), or can simply be left out (many brands of oily foods, such as potato chips, don’t use any antioxidant).
- Propyl gallate * – Prevents fats and oils from spoiling and is often used in conjunction with BHA and BHT. This additive is sometimes found in meat products, chicken soup base, and chewing gum.
- Monosodium glutamate – An amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and restaurant food. It is commonly associated with Asian foods and flavorings. The use of MSG allows companies to reduce the amount of real ingredients in their foods, such as chicken in chicken soup. Ingredients listed as “hydrolyzed soy protein” and “autolyzed yeast” may also contain MSG. Causes headaches and nausea in some people, and animal studies link it to damaging nerve cells in the brains of infant mice.
- Trans fats – Trans fats are created when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil. These “partially hydrogenated oils” are used most often for deep-frying food, and in baked goods. Margarine and vegetable shortening may also be made with partially hydrogenated oil. Manufacturers have modified processed products to reduce trans fats. Restaurants, particularly fast food chains, still serve foods loaded with trans fats. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Ruby Tuesday, and Red Lobster are some of the large chains that have largely eliminated trans fat or soon will. Trans fats are believed to increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Aspartame * – Additive found in low-calorie desserts, gelatins, drink mixes, and soft drinks. Also known by the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal. Controversial since it was initially approved by the FDA in 1974. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest “lifelong consumption of aspartame probably increases the risk of cancer. People—especially young children—should not consume foods and beverages sweetened with aspartame”.
- Acesulfame-K * – Artificial sweetener found in soft drinks, baked goods, chewing gum, and gelatin desserts. The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends that people avoid use of acesulfame-K due to lack of testing concerns.
- Food colorings (Blue, Red, Green, Yellow) * – Blue 1 and 2, found in beverages, candy, baked goods and pet food, are considered low risk but have been linked to cancer in mice. Red 3, used to dye cherries, fruit cocktail, candy, and baked goods, has been shown to cause thyroid tumors in rats. Green 3, added to candy and beverages, though rarely used, has been linked to bladder cancer. Studies have linked the widely used yellow 6—added to beverages, sausage, gelatin, baked goods, and candy—to tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney. Artificial food color is also suspected of causing increased hyperactivity in children.
- Olestra - A synthetic fat that blocks absorption of fat in your digestive system. It also blocks the absorption of vitamins while in your system. Olestra enables manufacturers to offer greasy-feeling low-fat snacks, but consumers would be better off with baked snacks, which are safe and just as low in calories. Found in some brands of potato chips. Be prepared to wear a diaper if you eat a whole bag.
- Potassium bromate * – Additive to increase volume in white flour, breads, and rolls. Bromate has been banned virtually worldwide except in Japan and the United States.
- White sugar – Too much sugar leads to problems with weight control, tooth decay and blood sugar levels in diabetics. It also replaces good nutrition.
- Sodium chloride (salt) – Excessive amounts of salt can affect cardiovascular function, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.
* Linked to an increased risk of cancer.
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Food Additives
- Mercola.com: 12 Food Additives to Remove From Your Diet
- MSN Health & Fitness: 12 Food Additives to Avoid
- WebMD: The Truth About 7 Common Food Additives
- Happier Valentine’s Day Without Food Dyes
- Artificial Sweeteners – How Sweet Are They?
- The Dirty Dozen
- Food Additives Cause Hyperactive Behavior