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What's Actually In Your Food?

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

RESEARCHED: FOOD ADDITIVES

I know this is a lot of information, but I feel like it's important in order for you to get the whole picture. But if you want, you can just skip to the additives. Also, new additives are added weekly, so be sure to come back next week to check it out.


Most of the packaged foods we eat today need some type of food additives to keep the foods from spoiling or to improve the flavor or appearance. Although small amounts of these additives won’t pose any high-risk health dangers in the immediate term, it’s important to know what's in the products you buy. These additives will likely be acceptable in moderation, but it's best to avoid food additives and stick to eating whole foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, so you don’t even have to worry about double-checking a label.


Here are some tips to make it a little easier understanding nutrition labels:

  1. Don't let the front label fool you:

  • Most make health claims that are dishonest.

  • A safe bet is to ignore the front label all together.

Here are some of the most common claims — and what they mean:

  • Light. Light products are processed to reduce either calories or fat. Some products are simply watered down. Check carefully to see if anything has been added instead — like sugar.

  • Multigrain. This sounds very healthy but only means that a product contains more than one type of grain. These are most likely refined grains — unless the product is marked as whole grain.

  • Natural. This does not necessarily mean that the product resembles anything natural. It simply indicates that at one point the manufacturer worked with a natural source like apples or rice.

  • Organic. This label says very little about whether a product is healthy. For example, organic sugar is still sugar.

  • No added sugar. Some products are naturally high in sugar. The fact that they don’t have added sugar doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Unhealthy sugar substitutes may also have been added.

  • Low-calorie. Low-calorie products have to have one-third fewer calories than the brand’s original product. Yet, one brand’s low-calorie version may have similar calories as another brand’s original.

  • Low-fat. This label usually means that the fat has been reduced at the cost of adding more sugar. Be very careful and read the ingredients list.

  • Low-carb. Recently, low-carb diets have been linked to improved health. Still, processed foods that are labeled low-carb are usually still processed junk foods, similar to processed low-fat foods.

  • Made with whole grains. The product may contain very little whole grains. Check the ingredients list — if whole grains aren’t in the first three ingredients, the amount is negligible.

  • Fortified or enriched. This means that some nutrients have been added to the product. For example, vitamin D is often added to milk. Yet, just because something is fortified doesn’t make it healthy.

  • Gluten-free. Gluten-free doesn’t mean healthy. The product simply doesn’t contain wheat, spelt, rye, or barley. Many gluten-free foods are highly processed and loaded with unhealthy fats and sugar.

  • Fruit-flavored. Many processed foods have a name that refers to a natural flavor, such as strawberry yogurt. However, the product may not contain any fruit — only chemicals designed to taste like fruit.

  • Zero trans fat. This phrase means “less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.” Thus, if serving sizes are misleadingly small, the product may still contain trans fat.

2. Product ingredients are listed by quantity: from highest to lowest amount. So it is a good rule of thumb to use the first 3 ingredients as your guide:

  • If the first 3 ingredients include refined grains, a type of sugar, or hydrogenated oils, you can assume that the product is unhealthy.

  • Aim for whole foods listed as the first 3 ingredients

  • Ingredient lists longer than 2 or 3 lines suggests the product is highly processed.

3. To avoid accidentally consuming a lot of sugar, watch out for the following names of sugar in ingredient lists:

  • Types of sugar: beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered sugar, cane sugar, caster sugar, coconut sugar, date sugar, golden sugar, invert sugar, muscovado sugar, organic raw sugar, raspadura sugar, evaporated cane juice, and confectioner’s sugar.

  • Types of syrup: carob syrup, golden syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, malt syrup, maple syrup, oat syrup, rice bran syrup, and rice syrup.

  • Other added sugars: barley malt, molasses, cane juice crystals, lactose, corn sweetener, crystalline fructose, dextran, malt powder, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, disaccharides, maltodextrin, and maltose. (52)


Despite these cautionary words, many truly healthy foods are organic, whole grain, or natural. Still, just because a label makes certain claims, doesn’t guarantee that it’s healthy.


 

Additives Quick Reference

Concerning ingredients are highlighted


 

Calcium Disodium (EDTA)

What is it?

Calcium Disodium EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid) is a chemical chelating agent found in many household foods and beverages. EDTA is a chemical created from the combination of formaldehyde, sodium cyanide, and ethylene diamine. Although deemed safe by the FDA this chelating agent has been linked to several health concerns (15).

How is it used?

Used to prevent air from spoiling the product by introducing unwanted oxygen into the products' molecular structures. It is also used in many food products to bind metals that occur during harvesting and manufacturing of food. The purpose is to increase shelf life by preventing rancidity, discoloration, and the separation of oils and fats (15).

Pros: -

Cons:

Vitamin depletion, hypotension, headaches/migraines, skin rash, asthma, abdominal discomfort, lowering of blood sugar, toxicity in high doses (2.5-3 grams per day for longer than 5-7 days), build up in the body, cancer, kidney damage (15).


Disodium Inosinate

What is it?

Disodium inosinate is found naturally in beef, pork, chicken, and many common fish including sea bass, tuna, and others (19). But is mostly made from the disodium salt of inosinic acid that can be produced by two methods: through sugar fermentation OR comes from yeast extract (17). When used as a food additive, it has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), as well as other authorities as safe (16). It is supplied as odorless, colorless or white crystals, or as a white powder. They are soluble in water. They are considered safe for use in foods as long as they are purified to a proper degree and are only used as flavor enhancers(19).

How is it used?

It is used as a flavor enhancer, in synergy with monosodium glutamate (MSG) to provide the umami taste. It is often added to foods in conjunction with disodium guanylate; the combination is known as disodium 5′-ribonucleotides(16).

Pros: -

Cons:

Consumers may suffer allergic reactions similar to MSG, such as: headaches/migraines, numbness or lack of sensation in mouth area, tightness or pain in chest. Commonly used in highly processed foods (18).


Disodium Guanylate

What is it?

A natural sodium salt of the flavor enhancing nucleotide guanosine monophosphate (GMP) (20). Typically seen used with Disodium Inosinate and MSG. It is supplied as odorless, colorless or white crystals, or as a white powder. Considered safe for use in foods as long as they are purified to a proper degree and are only used as flavor enhancers. Occurs naturally in mushrooms such as shiitake, enokidake, matsutake, syoro, hatsutake, pork, chicken, and whale meat (19). The disodium guanylate we see added into foods is usually made from fermented tapioca starch, though it can also be derived from yeast, mushrooms, and seaweed (21).

How is it used?

Disodium guanylate is typically paired with monosodium glutamate (MSG) or other glutamates to provide that umami taste, but can be used on its own — though this is fairly rare because it’s more expensive to produce (21).

Pros:

-

Cons:

Adds to total sodium levels. Although more research is needed on disodium guanylate to establish its safety limits, it’s generally regarded as safe. People with an MSG sensitivity, gout, or a history of kidney stones should avoid it (21).



Disodium Phosphate

What is it?

Phosphates like disodium phosphate are derived from the element phosphorus. Originally derived from animal bones and urine, phosphorus is now extracted from phosphate rock. It’s purified and put through chemical reactions (11).

The sodium phosphate in your food is generally regarded as safe by the FDA and other regulatory organizations (10).

How is it used?

Used as a preservative, mostly in processed meat, to color food, and as a leavening agent (10). They’re used to enhance food characteristics like nutritional value and cooking performance. Disodium phosphate is used in packaged foods, including macaroni and pastas. It’s also used in some cheeses as an emulsifier. You can also find it in meat products, canned sauces, Jell-O, evaporated milk, and some chocolate (11).

Pros:

Can be used as laxative (10).

Cons:

You may want to avoid sodium phosphates entirely if you have kidney disease or high blood pressure. Laxative effect, headache, nausea, vominting, diarrhea, increased blood pressure, damage to blood vessels, heart disease in those with kidney problems are possible side effects (10).


Lactic Acid

What is it?

Lactic acid is produced commercially by fermentation of carbohydrates such as glucose, sucrose, or lactose, or by chemical synthesis (25). Lactic acid is found in pickled vegetables, sourdough bread, beer, wine, sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented soy foods like soy sauce and miso. It's responsible for their tangy flavor ( 4 ). In addition to fermented vegetables and grains, fermented dairy products like kefir and yogurt contain lactic acid. Lactic acid naturally occurs in fermented foods but can also be man-made and added to packaged foods (26).

How is it used?

It is used as a decontaminant during meat processing. Lactic acid is used as a food preservative, curing agent, and flavoring agent (25).

Pros:

Protection against infection, immune system support, increased absorption of vitamins and minerals, antioxidant effects, prevent colon cancer, alleviate lactose intolerance, ease diarrhea, relieve peptic ulcers, stimulate immune system (27).

Cons:

In a study, two thirds of the patients experienced brain fog, confusion, and short term memory loss as well as bloating and fullness (28).


Modified food starch

What is it?

Modified food starch is made by physically, enzymatically, or chemically altering starch to change its inherent properties. In this instance, modified does not necessarily mean genetically modified, however some modified starches are likely made from genetically modified ingredients (6). Modified food starch is typically obtained from a variety of sources like wheat, corn, potato, or tapioca (7).

How is it used?

Useful as an emulsifier, thickener, or an anti-caking agent in food manufacturing. Mostly used in gluten free foods (5).

Pros:

-

Cons:

This greatly processed carbohydrate adds roughly 30 calories or seven grams of carbs in each teaspoon, without offering any nutritional value in return. An ingredient label reading “modified starch” is most likely to have been treated with things like sulfuric acid, chlorine or other chemicals which are not altogether safe for consumption (7).


Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

What is it?

MSG’s use in foods remains incredibly controversial in the general public. The FDA recognizes its use as generally safe for consumption. MSG occurs naturally in some foods like tomatoes, cheese, “hydrolyzed” food ingredients, yeast extract, soy extract and protein isolates in the form of glutamic acid. The MSG in processed foods is chemically synthesized from the fermentation of starch, beets, sugar cane or molasses. The natural versions do not have to be listed on ingredient labels but the synthesized type does (8).

How is it used?

MSG is added to foods to enhance the flavor, typically giving it a savory, umami flavor (8).

Pros:

-

Cons:

It acts on your body like glutamate and negatively affects your hypothalamus that controls major organs in the body. Headache, skin flushing, tightness or pressure in the face, numbness and tingling, burning on the face/neck, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, muscle weakness, hives or other allergic reaction, inflammation, brain damage, nervous system damage, hormonal changes, endocrine problems, learning disability, obesity, short stature (8).


Phosphorous Acid

What is it?

Phosphoric acid is a colorless, odorless crystalline liquid (1). Phosphorus is found naturally in many foods so most people get enough in their diet (2). Phosphorus is first turned to phosphorus pentoxide through a chemical manufacturing process. It’s then treated again to become phosphoric acid (1).

How is it used?

It gives soft drinks a tangy flavor and prevents the growth of mold and bacteria, which can multiply easily in a sugary solution. Most of soda’s acidity also comes from phosphoric acid (1).

Pros:

-

Cons:

Your body needs phosphorus, but too much of it can cause problems. Studies suggest that excessive phosphorus intake can put you at risk for osteoporosis and heart disease (1).


Potassium Sorbate

What is it?

Potassium sorbate is a synthetically produced preservative that is in a multitude of foods and skin care products (13). It is an odorless and tasteless salt synthetically produced from sorbic acid and potassium hydroxide (22). Regulatory agencies such as the FDA, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have determined that potassium sorbate is “generally regarded as safe,” (GRAS). When you eat potassium sorbate as a food additive, it passes through your system harmlessly as water and carbon dioxide. It does not accumulate in your body (23).

How is it used?

It's widely used as a preservative in foods, drinks, and personal care products. Potassium sorbate prolongs the shelf life of foods by stopping the growth of mold, yeast, and fungi (22).

Pros:

-

Cons:

May irritate skin/eyes when used in personal care products. May slightly increase risk of immune deficiency and slightly contribute to DNA damage (13).


Sorbic acid

What is it?

It is a naturally occurring compound that's become the most commonly used food preservative in the world, and it makes the global food chain possible (12). Sorbic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid found naturally in the mountain ash tree berry, but is now made synthetically. Breaking down into carbon dioxide and water once inside the body, potassium sorbate is listed on the “Generally Regarded As Safe list (GRAS list) by the FDA (13).

How is it used?

Sorbic acid is used to preserve meats because of its natural antibiotic capabilities. Because of its anti-fungal properties, sorbic acid is also used in canned goods, including pickles, prunes, maraschino cherries, figs, and prepared salads(14).

Pros:

-

Cons:

People with eczema should avoid sorbic acid in cosmetics because of possible irritation, but avoiding it in foods is unnecessary (14).


Sulfites

What is it?

Sulfites are sulfur-based food additives that preserve freshness. In general, when sulfites are added to foods and drinks, they are safe for most people and come without any health risks. For a small segment of the population, however, there is a risk of sulfite sensitivity or even an allergy to sulfites (30). Their use on fresh fruits and vegetables is banned in the United States, but sulfites are present in other foods (29). Sulfites can sometimes be listed as: Potassium metabisulfite, Potassium bisulfite, Sodium bisulfite, Sodium metabisulfite, and Sodium sulfite (30).

How is it used?

Sulfites are found in a variety of drinks, baked goods, sauces, dried fruit, snacks, and many other foods. Sulfites are useful as food preservatives because they prevent bacterial growth. They also improve the quality and texture of bread dough ​and prevent oxidation or browning of sliced vegetables and fruit. Sulfites also help keep black spots from developing on shrimp and lobster (30).

Pros:

-

Cons:

The FDA estimates about 1% of the population are sensitive to sulfites and 5% of those have asthmatic reactions. With that being said, you should avoid sulfites if you have any of the following: sensitivity to sulfur dioxide, a deficiency in sulfite oxidase, or positive allergy tests to sulfites. Symptoms of a reaction can include hives, diarrhea, shortness of breath, or even fatal anaphylactic shock.2 The reactions and allergy symptoms may start minutes or hours after eating foods that contain sulfites (30).


Xanthan gum

What is it?

Commonly found in bakery products, cake mixes, pie crusts, cereal bars, salad dressings, pasta sauces, spreads, vegetable patties, frozen pizza, honey-roasted peanuts (28). Xanthan gum is a thickener used in many gluten free foods. It is created by fermenting sugar by a type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. When sugar is fermented, it creates a broth or goo-like substance, which is made solid by adding an alcohol (3).

How is it used?

It is a popular food additive that's commonly added to foods as a thickener or stabilizer (3).

Pros:

Though these benefits are unlikely to occur without taking supplements, xanthan gum has been linked to these potential health benefits: Lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, weight loss, cancer-fighting properties, and improved regularity (4).

Cons:

One potential side effect of consuming xanthan gum is that it can have a laxative effect (3).


Yeast Extract

What is it?

Yeast extract is a food flavoring made from the same yeast used to make bread and beer. Yeast extract is made by adding sugar to yeast in a warm environment. As the yeast expands, the walls of its cells soften. This mixture is then spun in a centrifuge and the loosened cell walls are whisked away. There are two kinds of yeast extract, autolyzed and hydrolyzed. In both, the cell walls are discarded and the contents of the cell are combined. In autolyzed yeast, the enzymes found in the yeast itself are used to break down the proteins. In hydrolyzed yeast, these enzymes are added to the yeast. Yeast extract can be found as a thick gel or in a moist powdered form. Yeast extract is also found in canned soups and stews, frozen dinners, and salty snacks. Sometimes, “natural flavors” or “additives” also can mean yeast extract is used (24).

How is it used?

It’s added to some foods like soy sauce and cheese for a savory flavor. Yeast extract adds flavor like a spice, unlike MSG which has no flavor and instead enhances the flavor already there. (24)

Pros:

Very high in B vitamins, adds savory flavor (24)

Cons:

You may want to avoid yeast extract if you have a problem with blood pressure or need to limit sodium intake (24).


Glucono Delta Lactone

What is it?

It is a naturally occurring ingredient commonly used as a coagulant in tofu making, a leavening acid in bakery, a mild acidulant in cheese and meat products, and a sequestrant in some food applications. It is kosher, halal, vegan and GMO free. The FDA has recognized GDL as GRAS (34).

How is it used?

GDL is a multifunctional ingredient that can be used as a coagulant in tofu, a leavening acid in the bakery (e.g. bread, cakes & pastries), controlled release acidulant & curing accelerator in processed meat & seafood, mild acidulant, chelating agent, and buffering agent in food (34).

Pros:

Unlikely to have any adverse side effects. Naturally occurring additive (34).

Cons:

Some may be sensitive to GDL and could experience allergic-type reactions such as rash and itching (34).

Ascorbic Acid

What is it?

Ascorbic acid is the chemical name for Vitamin C. In addition to the natural sources of ascorbic acid, this has also become a common food additive, being added to foods such as cheese, sherbet, powdered milk, and cereals to name a few. Ascorbic acid can also be taken as a supplement (35).

How is it used?

Ascorbic acid is often added to fruit juices, cereals, fruit-flavored candies, dried fruit, cured meats and frozen fruits, to fortify or add a citrus flavor. Ascorbic acid also acts as a preservative to keep food such as bread, cured meats, jams and jellies, from spoiling (36).

Pros:

Fights common cold, protects skin, helps heal wounds, helps fight stress, decreases cholesterol, improves blood flow, lowers risk of disease and cancer, promotes eye, nail, and hair health, and fights asthma/arthritis symptoms (35).

Cons:

Overconsumption can cause: nausea, heartburn, stomach cramps, vomiting, headache, and diarrhea. Long-term side effects of overconsumption: kidney stones (35).

L, Cysteine (cysteine)

What is it?

L-cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid found naturally in the human body. Abundant in protein-rich foods, L-cysteine is also sold as a dietary supplement. Many L-cysteine supplements are made from chicken feathers. This may be of a concern to some, including those who are vegetarian/vegan or who follow a kosher diet. L-cysteine is abundant in human hair and, in the past, supplement manufacturers extracted the amino acid from hair collected at barbers and salons. This is no longer common practice (37). It is one of the most common reducing agents in baking, as well as in enriched beef flavors (38).

How is it used?

Gluten softening and dough relaxing, dough conditioning, reduces mixing and fermentation times, better dough consistency and easier handling, improved pan flow (38).

Pros:

As a reducing agent, it may help prevent exercise-induced overproduction of free radicals. This reduces oxidative stress (38). When taken as a supplement: antioxidant properties, immune function, promotes detoxification, increases male fertility, balances blood sugar levels, supports digestive health, relieves symptoms of respiratory conditions, helps treat psychiatric disorders (39).

Cons:

Very high doses (more than seven grams) of L-cystine can be toxic to human cells. Some people may experience side effects from L-cysteine supplements, including dry mouth, headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Supplements should not be taken if you already use medications that suppress the immune system, oxiconazole (an antifungal medication), nitroglycerin and isosorbide (medications for high blood pressure), or activated charcoal (39).

Soy, soybean Oil

What is it?

Soybean oil is made by extracting oil from whole soybeans. While polyunsaturated fats are considered to be the type of fat that is most beneficial to our health, their structure makes them a little less stable and more vulnerable to spoilage. As a result, newer varieties of soybeans have been bred to have a higher amount of monounsaturated fats. These new varieties are called high-oleic soybean oils. High-oleic oils are more stable and can be used in applications like high-heat cooking and frying for longer periods of time. (40).

How is it used?

Soybean oil is used in a wide variety of packaged foods, baked goods, snacks, dressings and sauces, in addition to being sold on its own as a cooking oil. It’s considered to be a vegetable oil and is often sold as a blend with other oils, including canola, corn, safflower and sunflower oils (40).

Pros:

Soybean oil is high in polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It’s a source of linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid that we need to get from food because our bodies can’t make it on their own. omega-3s can lower triglyceride levels, blood pressure, inflammation and heart rate, while also increasing HDL cholesterol (40).

Cons:

People who are allergic to peanuts, and other plants that are members of the Fabaceae/Leguminosea family might also be allergic to soybean oil (43).

Sodium Propionate

What is it?

Sodium propionate, the sodium salt of propanoic acid that can be used as a preservative in food. There are three propionates that are approved as food additives, calcium propionate is the most used one, then sodium propionate, while potassium propionate is not common (44).

How is it used?

It is used as a mold inhibitor in baked goods, nonalcoholic beverages, cheeses, gelatins, puddings, fillings, jams, jellies, meat products, and soft candy (44).

Pros:

Sodium propionate is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used as an antimicrobial agent and a flavoring agent in food with no limitation other than current good manufacturing practice (44).

Cons:

Studies in humans and mice from Harvard in 2019 found that the consumption of propionate may increase the health risk of obesity and diabetes (44).

Calcium Silicate

What is it?

Calcium silicate, an inorganic ingredient with low bulk density and high water absorption, commonly used as an anticaking agent and carrier in food, the two main applications are in table salts and supplements. It is a white free-flowing powder, made up of varying proportions of CaO and SiO2, including dicalcium silicate (Ca2SiO4) and tricalcium silicate. it can be produced by diluted calcium chloride or calcium hydroxide with sodium silicate (45).

How is it used?

Food grade calcium silicate is a common anticaking agent used in table salts, food supplements and baking powder. It is also largely used in industrial, e.g. as an alternative to asbestos for insulation in building materials, such as in glass and cement, bricks and fire protection ceilings and boards; a fertilizer as a source of silicon (45).

Pros:

It is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used at levels not exceed 2% in table salt and 5% in baking powder (45).

Cons:

it was demonstrated that silicon from calcium silicate was accumulated in kidneys and liver in rats. Its safety cannot be assessed as a food additive due to the lack of reliable data on subchronic and chronic toxicity, carcinogenicity, and reproductive toxicity (45).

Palm Oil

What is it?

Palm oil, made from the fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis), is one of the most widely produced edible fats in the world. The palm yields two types of oil: One is extracted from the flesh of the fruit (palm oil), and the other from the seed, or kernel (palm kernel oil). Palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil — the so-called tropical oils — got a bad reputation because they're high in saturated fat, which has long been linked to heart disease. Palm oil, which is 50% saturated, has a more favorable fatty acid composition than palm kernel oil and coconut oil, which are more than 85% saturated. In general, the higher the saturated fat content, the more solid a fat is at room temperature. Palm oil is semisolid at room temperature but can be processed into a liquid cooking oil. Since the ban on trans fats, food manufacturers and restaurants needed to find alternatives-palm oil. It is less saturated than butter and contains no trans fat. It is a better choice when compared to high trans fats but oils that are liquid at room temp should be your first choice (46).

How is it used?

Palm oil is an extremely versatile oil that has many different properties and functions which makes it so useful and so widely used. It is semi-solid at room temperature so can keep spreads spreadable; it is resistant to oxidation and so can give products a longer shelf-life; it’s stable at high temperatures and so helps to give fried products a crispy and crunchy texture; it’s also odorless and colorless so it doesn’t alter the look or smell of food products (47).

Pros:

Palm oil is rich in antioxidants, one of which is vitamin E. Palm oil may help increase the amount of vitamin A you can absorb (48).

Cons:

High in saturated fats (which are linked to increased risk of heart disease and chronic health conditions), linked to atherosclerosis, and increased cholesterol levels (48). Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino (47).

Corn Oil

What is it?

Corn oil is a refined vegetable oil widely used in cooking and especially deep frying. Corn oil is 100% fat, containing no protein or carbs. During the process of extracting corn oil from corn, many vitamins and minerals are lost. Still, the oil has a fair amount of vitamin E. (49)

How is it used?

Cooking oil, salad dressing, marinades, cakes, bread, other baked goods, as an ingredient in cosmetics. (49)

Pros:

Corn oil is about 30–60% linoleic acid, a type of polyunsaturated omega-6 fat. Corn oil is full of phytosterols, may promote heart health (49)

Cons:

Corn oil has a 46:1 ratio for omega-6 to omega-3 fats (which should 4:1), made with genetically modified corn, highly refined (49)

Beta Carotene

What is it?

Beta carotene is a plant pigment that gives red, orange, and yellow vegetables their vibrant color. Beta carotene is considered a provitamin A carotenoid, meaning that the body can convert it into vitamin A (retinol) (50).

How is it used?

Natural orange/yellow colorant, nutritional fortifier, antioxidant and stabilizer (51).

Pros:

Better cognitive function, good skin health, lung health, eye health, may reduce risk of certain cancers (50).

Cons:

it’s suggested that people who smoke avoid beta carotene supplements (50).


Sodium Nitrites

What is it?

Nitrates and nitrites are compounds that occur naturally in the human body and in some foods, such as vegetables. Manufacturers also add them to processed foods, such as bacon, to preserve them and make them last longer. Nitrates can turn into nitrites, which can then form either nitric oxide (good) or nitrosamines (bad). Nitrates and nitrites also occur naturally in vegetables, which may reduce the risk for some types of cancer and other diseases. According to one study, people obtain around 80% of their dietary nitrates from vegetables (55).

How is it used?

These additives help stabilize, color and flavor meat, and prevent harmful bacterial growth (53). Adds salty flavor and improves meat appearance by giving it a red or pink color (55).

Pros:

When it turns into nitric oxide, it dilates blood vessels, lowering blood pressure. It is also linked with enhancing physical performance, especially during high intensity endurance exercise (55).

Cons:

When nitrites and amino acids are present, carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines can form during cooking with high heat. This is linked to heart disease and cancer. It damages blood vessels, possibly causing arteries to narrow and harden (54), and increases the risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancer (53).


Carrageenan

What is it?

It is a common food additive with no nutritional value. It is extracted from a red seaweed, Chondrus crispus, popularly known as Irish moss (56).

How is it used?

It is used as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the texture of ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk, and other processed foods (56).

Pros:

Possible prebiotic effects, protect intestinal lining, antioxidant support, reduced cholesterol levels (59).

Cons:

It has now also been associated with malignancies and stomach problems. And it appears that acid digestion, heating, bacterial action and mechanical processing can all accelerate degradation of food-grade carrageenan (57). Joanne K. Tobacman, MD, who has published multiple peer-reviewed studies on the biological effects of carrageenan, believes that all forms of it are harmful. She has found that exposure to it, in the amounts contained in processed foods, causes inflammation in the body. That’s concerning, since chronic inflammation is a root cause of many serious diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, coronary artery disease, and cancer (58).



Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC)

What is it?

A synthetic, widely used class of food additives termed as emulsifiers.

It has not been extensively tested on humans.

It has been assumed it was safe because it is eliminated in feces without being absorbed.

How is it used?

Added to many processed foods to promote shelf life and enhance texture.

Pros:

None

Cons:

Recent studies have showed that these emulsifiers do alter gut bacteria which then leads to a range of chronic inflammatory conditions.

Another study showed consumption of CMC changed the make-up of bacteria growing in the colon. It also showed depletion of the beneficial metabolites that are normally found in the colon.

The conclusion from all studies: long-term consumption increases the risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases.



New additives are added weekly. Come back next week to check them out.






Sources:

60. https://news.gsu.edu/2021/11/30/ubiquitous-food-additive-alters-human-microbiota-and-intestinal-environment/