We are all being constantly bombarded by chemicals, poisons and toxins. Virtually everything that we eat or drink makes us less healthy. Thousands of toxins, carcinogens and chemicals are being put into what we eat and what we drink, courtesy of the FDA and the USDA. Shamefully these chemicals were tested on helpless animals who were injected, poisoned and died from their exposure. With the blessing of our government, food producers and manufacturers mislead you into thinking that food additives “improve” the nutritional value of food. Words like “improved”, “enriched” foods have actually been stripped of their original nutrients, so the manufacturers add a few synthetic vitamins and minerals to artificially give it some nutritional value. The final products have fewer nutrients than the starting product and they are not well received by our bodies as they would have been in their natural state. Man-made preservatives give food and cosmetics a longer shelf life, which allows manufacturers to bring in a bigger revenue. Additives are also used to preserve flavor and color. For centuries people have used salts, vinegars, herbs, boiling and refrigeration to naturally hold food items, but in the last 50 years man-made preservatives have become the common method.
Food additives are used extensively in processed foods. Unless you only eat food that comes straight out of a pesticide-free garden, there is a good chance you will run into food additives. Food additives add flavor, color and shelf life to food, but they may also have negative affects on your body. Take time to familiarize yourself with common food additives, so you will know what to look for, and avoid, when shopping.
Aspartame is best known by the names of Nutrasweet and Equal and it’s believed to be carcinogenic and accounts for more reports of adverse reactions than all other foods and food additives combined. Thousands of foods and drinks around the world use aspartame as a sugar substitute, including cereals, sugar-free chewing gum, low-calorie (diet) soft drinks and table top sweeteners. Rumors claiming that aspartame causes a number of health problems, including cancer, have been around for many years. Many of these continue to circulate on the Internet. The June, 2009 issue of the “Clinical Journal of Pain” lists aspartame as a food trigger for migraine headaches, noting that many people are sensitive to it. The CSPI reports that aspartame can cause neurological problems, such as hallucinations, and that consumption of the artificial sweetener, over extended periods of time, increases cancer risks.
Mono-Sodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is a flavor-enhancer and preservative that is added to many packaged and canned foods. In fact, it is found in most packaged foods, from potato chips to soups to canned meats, but it is not always listed as MSG. It can also be disguised on the label as “natural flavoring” or “glutamic acid.” According to a report on MSG by the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, MSG promotes the growth, and spread, of cancer cells within the body, and can also be linked to “sudden cardiac death.” In a study in the February-March, 2008 issue of the “Journal of Autoimmunity,” researchers state that MSG is linked with obesity and inflammation within the body, particularly the liver. The researchers also call for it to be re-evaluated as a food additive, and suggested removing it from the food chain.
Acesulfame-K is an artificial sweetener that was at one time only allowed in sugar-free products. According to Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI, it is now used in soft drinks and other products, along with glucose. Studies about the effects of acesulfame-K are mixed. A July 2008 study in “Preventive Medicine” states that the use of artificial sweeteners over a 10 year period encouraged the development of urinary tract tumors, while a report from the 2005 “National Toxicology Program” states specifically that acesulfame-K showed no evidence of cancer activity in rats. The CSPI states that it can be potentially dangerous, and is an additive that should be avoided.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole or BHA
BHA is a preservative that slows the rate at which fats become rancid. It is often found in cereal, chips and vegetable oil products. When BHA was tested in animals, it was found to cause cancer in the “forestomach.” Those who argue the safety of BHA state that humans have no forestomach, therefore it should not be considered unsafe. CSPI states that if a substance has been found to cause cancer in three different species, in this case rats, hamsters and mice, then the United States Department of Health and Human Services considers it to be a carcinogen. The Food and Drug Administration still allows the use of BHA as an additive, as of 2009.
Cyclamate is another artificial sweetener, which the United States banned due to its cancer-causing potential. It is suspected that cyclamate may actually increase the cancer-causing activity of other substances, rather than causing cancer itself. According to a report on cyclamate from Elmhurst College in Illinois, it is still approved for use in more than 55 countries, so you may run into cyclamate in foods while traveling.
Trans fats are a type of mostly man-made fat that the food industry loves, but our hearts and blood vessels don’t.
Trans fats is considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat you can eat. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — both raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. A high LDL cholesterol level in combination with a low HDL cholesterol level increases your risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women. The manufactured form of trans fat, known as partially hydrogenated oil, is found in a variety of food products, including backed goods, snacks, fried food, refrigerator dough, margarine and the list goes on. Trans fats also promotes inflammation, an overactivity of the immune system that has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Eating products with trans fats also reduces the normal healthy responsiveness of endothelial cells, the cells that line all of our blood vessels. In animal studies, eating trans fat also promotes obesity and resistance to insulin, the precursor to diabetes.
Olestra is a fat substitute that has no calories and cannot be absorbed by the digestive system, so it simply passes through it. It is often used in potato chips and in place of other fats. While it may sound like a miracle additive, olestra often has a negative affect on the digestive system. Aside from digestive troubles, the CSPI reports that olestra can interfere with the body’s absorption of important compounds from plants such as lutein, lycopene and beta-carotene, all of which help protect the body from cancer and heart disease.
Propyl gallate is a preservative found in oils, soup bases, gum and meat products. It works much like BHA, listed above, and the two preservatives are often used together. Just as with BHA, the CSPI states that studies on the dangers of propyl gallate are mixed, but there is a chance that it can cause cancer, and should therefore be avoided.
Potassium bromate is a food additive that improves the action of flour. Its use has been banned in most countries, but not in the United States. A report in the July, 1990 issue of “Environmental Health Perspectives” states that potassium bromate is found to promote the onset of tumors in the kidney and thyroid.
Saccharin is another artificial sweetener, used as individual packets or in soft drinks. The CSPI states that, like other artificial sweeteners, it has been found to cause cancer in the urinary tract and bladder in rodents. Saccharin has also been found to cause cancer of the ovaries, as well as other organs, and increases the cancer-causing effects of other compounds.
Nitrites and Nitrates
Sodium nitrite and nitrate are preservatives that enhance the color and flavor of processed meats. The CSPI reports that while there are no definitive studies showing that nitrates and nitrites cause cancer, adding nitrites to food as a preservative can actually encourage the formation of chemicals that cause cancer within that food, and they list fried bacon as a chief example. Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate should be avoided, until future studies can prove their safety.
Toxic Food Dyes
Adding colors to food can make them look a lot more appealing – a tactic the food industry has been capitalizing on for decades. Would your children rather eat muted brown cereal or the rainbow-colored brand? Are you more tempted to purchase a bright green pickle, or a grayish one?
Many popular candies, drinks, popsicles, puddings, yogurts, gums, boxed mac n’ cheeses, baking mixes, pickles, meats, fruits, sauces and chips contain ingredients such as Yellow #5, Blue #1, and Red #40 – three of the most popular FDA-permitted ones. As if that’s not enough, the dye in our day isn’t limited to food. Chances are, if you take vitamins, use cough syrup, brush your teeth, wash your hands, shampoo your hair, launder your clothing and moisturize your lips on a daily basis — you come into contact with artificial dyes quite frequently. For centuries, people and companies used dyes derived from natural ingredients to color food. But many of these natural colors contained toxins such as mercury, copper and arsenic. Around the turn of the 20th century, scientists began formulating synthetic colors, derived from coal tar, to replace the existing toxic natural ones. Unfortunately, these synthetic alternatives have proven to have their own slew of problems.