Food additives are chemicals that are added to foods to make them last longer during storage and supposedly taste better. Many food additives even have addictive qualities. Food additives have absolutely nothing to do with enhancing nutrition. In fact, food additives are not even fit for human consumption. Our bodies were designed to eat natural, whole foods — vegetables, fruits and grains, not loads of chemicals cooked up in laboratories. So why do food manufacturers keep adding food additives to their products? The sad truth is that food additives keep manufacturing and distribution costs down and profits high.
Anyone who has done any cooking knows that fresh lemon juice can really liven up a lot of foods, especially fish. But using fresh lemons is out of the question — too expensive and too labor-intensive — for big manufacturers of food. So the manufacturers came up with an alternative -- 2-methyl-3-(pisopropylphenyl)-propionaldehyde, an artificial lemon flavoring. This is just one of the thousands of chemical additives that make processed foods longer-lasting, more colorful, and supposedly tastier.
All certified food colors in use today are members of a class of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are universally suspect as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals. The FDA argues that food coloring is safe, because experiments show that the artificial coloring causes cancer when injected into rats, but not when the rats are feeding on the artificial coloring. The FDA conclusion gives food manufacturers carte blanche to use artificial colors in their products. Usually, we have to wait several years until people start getting sick from these artificial colorings before the FDA will do anything. Many food colorings have been on the market for decades before it has been proven and accepted that they are carcinogenic. Only then do government regulatory agencies outlaw the use of these dangerous chemicals.
Here are three of the most common food additives that you should be aware of, and avoid:
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). There’s a reason you are seeing more of those MSG logos with the red line through them on restaurant menu. More people are waking up to the dangers of this flavor-enhancing amino acid.
For decades, MSG has been added to foods to make them taste better without having to use costly fresh spices. MSG is particularly useful at livening up frozen vegetables that have lost their natural flavor in the freezing process. If you were to walk through most restaurant storerooms, you would see enormous economy-size jugs of MSG.
The bad news is that MSG is an exitotoxin. When ingested in their chemically-purified form in abnormal quantities, exitotoxins can cause neurons in the brain to become over-stimulated and die. More troubling still, MSG can cross the blood-brain barrier, the network of blood capillaries that usually keep toxic substances from coming into contact with the brain.
Buyer Beware: The presence of MSG is often disguised by use of the phrases, “textured vegetable protein (TVP),” or “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” or “plant protein extract,“ on the labels of processed foods.
Aspartame is a sugar substitute, like NutraSweet or Equal. Approved by the FDA in 1993, Aspartame is now everywhere — diet sodas, sugar-free candies, chewing gum, etc. But here’s something bad that you probably do not know: when aspartame is ingested or heated to more the 86 F, the additive breaks down into formaldehyde, phenylalanine and methanol—three chemicals that you would never intentionally putting into your body. Formaldehyde, after all, is what morticians use to preserve dead bodies. There is some speculation that “Gulf War Syndrome,” which has left thousands of soldiers with severe neurological disorders, actually is the result of soldiers consuming aspartame-containing diet sodas that had sat for weeks in the desert sun.
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) is a genetically-engineered hormone used to boost milk production in cows. Cows are injected with rBGH, which passes into their milk and eventually into our milk cartons. rBGH causes insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) to increase. IGF-1 is a known cancer-promoting substance in humans. Moreover, rBGH causes mastitis, an infection in the cow’s udder, which requires antibiotics. So along with the rBGH, the cow’s milk contains antibiotics, which also eventually end up in our milk cartons.
Unfortunately, these are only three examples of dangerous food additives. Practically all of the foods in our supermarkets have been altered in some way with artificial chemicals: Our fruits have been sprayed with pesticides, our vegetables have been grown in soils contaminated with herbicides, our chickens have been injected with arsenic to stimulate growth, our luncheon meats (e.g.: ham) have been treated with sodium nitrate to keep them looking pink, and our potatoes have been coated with maleic hydrazide to keep them from sprouting. All of these chemicals increase our body’s toxic load, which strains our system, produces mutations in our cells, and leaves us more vulnerable to disease.
Don’t expect the FDA to police every mouthful of food for you. Therefore, be an informed, label-reading consumer. The good thing, however, is that you have options:
You can choose not to eat foods with additives and other chemicals.
Buy organic fruits and vegetables, free-range chickens, and hormone-free milk.
Preserving your health involves you paying close attention to what you consume every day.