Food Additives and Unhealthiness: Do You Know What’s In Your Food?

In the food industry, the use of additives provides a number of benefits that are often overlooked by the consumer.

Let’s face it, if everyone were willing to grow their own food, harvest and process it, spend many hours involved in cooking and preservation or take the added risk of food spoilage, then food additives may no longer be used.

Today, however, most consumers have become dependent on the technological, aesthetic and practical advantages that these additives offer.

But what do you really know about food additives? First and foremost, what are they?

Food Additives Definition

Food additives are specific ingredients added to processed foods to make them colorful, tasty and enticing to children and adults, while also keeping the foods from going bad on the supermarket shelves.

Unfortunately, there is a lot that we do not know about the combined and long term effects of these additives to our overall health and well being.

One thing that we do know is that additives are increasingly being used in the making of processed foods.

These are the same processed foods we are cautioned about because they are associated with poor health, obesity and a plethora of lifestyle diseases.

The Quantity of Additives Being Used In The World Is Growing Each and Every Day

Recent figures have revealed that consumers have been using increasing quantities of food additives each year.

In the 60s, the average consumer ingested around 3 pounds of food additives every year.

The quantity ingested increased to 6 pounds in the 70s and later to 10 pounds in the 90s.

This increase in the amount of food additives ingested by the average consumer can be attributed to the rising use of additives and preservatives in the making of processed foods.

Today, it’s estimated that the average adult consumer ingests around 12 pounds of additives every year.

This figure is expected to go up in coming years as manufacturers continue to add new chemicals into their products.

Coincidentally, as more and more food additives find their way into our diets, more and more people suffer from lifestyle diseases like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and many others.

Is this really a coincidence or is there a relationship between food additives and unhealthiness?

Regulatory bodies are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the foods we purchase are safe and healthy for consumption.

However, these bodies seem to be lagging behind and failing on their mandate as processed foods have never before being so hazardous to human health.

How Food Additives Affect Our Health?

How Food Additives Affect Our Health?

Artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors have been reported to hinder the synthesis of certain detoxifying enzymes in the body.

When this happens, the body is unable to break down and eliminate toxins that are harmful to the body.

Accumulation of toxins in the body is one of the main causes of illnesses.

Additives can also adversely affect enzymes responsible for synthesizing norepinephrine, epinephrine/noradrenaline, and adrenaline, which could explain the fidgety behavior and lack of concentration that some children exhibit.

Researchers are yet to establish how much food additives affect the development of a child’s brain.

One thing that can be agreed on, however, is that it is not advisable for a growing body and brain to be exposed to large quantities of chemical substances.

Children consume large quantities of processed foods. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume then they ingest an equal or even higher amount of additives than adults.

Because children’s bodies and immune system are not fully developed, they may experience more severe side effects and health consequences of consuming harmful food additives than adults.

This fact alone should cause alarm, if not immediate action.

Other Problems Caused By Food Additives

Many food additives have been linked to various respiratory illnesses like hay fever, rhinitis, and asthma.

Other additives are known to cause skin problems like hives and eczema, and some cause nausea and headaches.

Some have been associated with neurological health complications as well.

An example of a popular food additive that has negative side effects on health is tartrazine.

Tartrazine is known to eliminate zinc from the body. Mind you; zinc is an essential mineral that is needed for more than 200 different processes in the body.

Zinc is necessary for normal body and brain growth and development among other very critical functions.

Food Additives List

Listing down all the different types of food additives found in processed foods is no easy task.

There are so many different types and varieties of additives that are used to add flavor, add color, prevent food from going bad and presenting products in a form that consumers find appealing.

Here is a list that should give you an idea of what’s really out there in terms of food additives:

Waxes and vitamins, vegetable gums, thickeners, sweeteners, propellants, preservatives, minerals, humectants, glazing agents, gelling agents, flavor enhancers, stabilizers/firming agents, foaming agents, emulsifiers,colorants, carrier solvents and carriers, bulking agents, bleaching agents, anti-caking agents, anti-foaming agents, alkalis, acids and acid regulators.

Direct And Indirect Food Additives

Food additives can be classified as direct or indirect. Direct additives are those that are added during the processing of the food product.

This is done with the aim of giving it certain advantages or improvements which may include:

  • Nutrient supplementation.
  • Assisting in processing or preparing food.
  • Preserve freshness.
  • Improve food visual appeal.

Direct additives can be artificial or natural. Natural additives include:

  • Natural herbs or spices that make foods taste good.
  • Vinegar for pickles.
  • Salt for meat preservation.

Indirect” food additives refer to chemicals that can be found in food during or following processing.

They are not purposely used or placed in food and occur only in small amounts in the finished products.

Food Additives To Avoid

Food Additives To Avoid

All additives are not created equal. Some of them are essentially good or harmless while others are really harmful and cause some nasty side effects.

The list below is not an exhaustive list of all harmful food additives. It, however, list some of the most harmful additives found in the processed foods we consume on a day to day basis.

1. Tartrazine (102)

Tartrazine is a food additive whose adverse side effects on the body are well-known.

This additive is particularly known to harm children and infants. Tartrazine is sometimes referred to as an anti-nutrient as it promotes the elimination of crucial nutrients such as zinc from the body.

The body needs a mineral like zinc for normal day-to-day functioning and physical as well as brain development.

2. Quinoline Yellow (104)

When combined with Brilliant Blue (133), Aspartame (951) and MSG (621), Quinoline Yellow has been associated with neurological complications and difficulty in normal neuronal growth and development.

3. Yellow/Orange S (110), Sunset Yellow FCF

This additive is in the list of possibly harmful food additives because of the side effects it causes in children such as poor growth and impaired brain function.

4. Carmoisine (112)

Carmoisine (112) is also on the list of possibly harmful food additives because of the negative side effects it has on children’s body and brain development.

5. Erythrosine (127)

Previously banned in The U.S but recently approved by the FDA, Erythrosine (127) is a possibly harmful additive that is surprisingly banned in other countries such as Norway.

6. Allura Red (129)

Allura Red (129) is on the list of possibly harmful food additives because of the negative side effects it has on children’s brain function and concentration.

7. Brilliant Blue (133)

This food additive is currently banned in Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, Belgium and Austria.

It was previously banned in the U.K between 1972 and 1980. When combined with Quinoline Yellow (104), Aspartame (951) and MSG (621), it has been associated with neurological signaling complications.

8. Green S (142)

Green S (142) is banned in Norway, USA, Sweden, Japan, and Canada. The additive is associated with side effects such as skin rashes, insomnia, asthma, and hyperactivity.

9. Caramel (150 a, b, c & d)

This additive is reported to cause gastrointestinal complications, liver problems and respiratory illnesses like asthma.

10. Brilliant Black (151)

Associated with health complications such as asthma and hyperactivity.

11. Chocolate Brown (155)

Associated with numerous allergic reactions and asthma.

12. Annatto (160b)

Known to cause irritability, head banging, hives, insomnia, and restlessness.

13. Benzoic Acid (210)

Contains a chemical substance known as benzoate that is used in food preservation. The additive is said to cause ADHD and hyper-arousal.

14. Potassium Benzoate (212)

Known to cause headaches, hyperactivity, asthma and skin irritations.

15. Calcium Benzoate (213)

Known to cause similar side effects as Potassium Benzoate (212).

16. Paraben, Propylparaben, Propyl p-hydroxybenzoate (216)

Known to cause asthma, itchiness and swelling, redness, and many other skin irritations.

17. Sulfur Dioxide (220)

Has been reported to cause numerous respiratory complications like bronchitis and asthma, as well as hives.

18. Sodium Sulphite (221)

Causes similar side effects as Sulphur Dioxide (220)

19. Sodium Metabisulphite (223)

Associated with asthma and hay fever.

20. Potassium Nitrate (249)

Known to promote digestive problems, stomach upsets, and headaches.

21. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) (320)

BHA is known to cause anxiety and depression as well as headaches and insomnia.

22. Stannous Chloride (512)

Suspected to be a neurological toxin and is associated with symptoms such as headaches, chronic fatigue, vomiting, and nausea.

23. Monosodium Glutamate (621)

When combined with Aspartame (951), Quinoline Yellow (104) and Brilliant Blue (133), this additive is known to cause complications in neurological function.

On its own, Monosodium Glutamate (621) is still harmful to the body as it associated with various health complications like headaches and migraines, seizures, tightness of the face, nausea and chest pains.

This additive is used in the manufacture of another additive known as HVP or Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein.

24. Aspartame (951)

Causes a number of adverse effects when combined with many of the above-listed additives.

On its own, Aspartame (951) is linked with ADD, headaches, memory difficulties and numerous neurological problems.

Aspartame (951) is an artificial sweetener that has been reported to cause mood disorders.

It is commonly used in the production of soft drinks as it is a cheaper alternative to costly natural sweeteners like ordinary sugar.

Food Additives and Brain Development

The topic of food additives and unhealthiness cannot be exhausted without discussing the effects additives have on brain cells.

Two additives, in particular, Aspartame and MSG, are known to kill brain cells.

These two additives are scientifically referred to as excitotoxins. They have been observed to excite brain cells and neurons to the point of death.

Children’s brains are the most vulnerable to these addictive additives. A child’s brain is very sensitive meaning any over-excitement of brain cells can be dangerous.

Even adults’ brains are not spared by these nasty additives. Research has shown that the additive as mentioned above contribute significantly to cognitive decline and the development of mental illnesses like Alzheimer’s.

When you read the label or ingredients section of any processed food, you will always notice a combination of food additives – commonly listed using their identification numbers.

Do not be fooled into thinking that all additives listed are safe for consumption.

Some additives, when combined with other additives, are more lethal than when they are simply on their own.

It is important to educate yourself on what various interactions between additives could mean in regards to the safety of processed foods.

Also, do not be fooled into thinking that naturally sourced food additives are safer than the same artificial ones.

Artificial Sweeteners As Food Additives

Food additives and unhealthiness:artificial sweeteners to avoid

Artificial sweeteners are quickly becoming the most common food additives out there today.

You can find these food additives in most processed foods and soft drinks. They are preferred by many manufacturers for their low cost, but their safety is very much in contention.

Currently, there are no long term tests or studies that can prove that artificial sweeteners are completely safe for consumption and beneficial to human health and well being.

Some of the artificial sweeteners you should be on the lookout for are:

1. Neotame (961)

This additive is suspected to be a neurotoxic compound that’s worse than aspartame.

2. Sucralose (955)

Known to cause kidney and liver problems in laboratory animals.

3. Saccharin and its CA, K and NA salts (954)

Associated with side effects like insomnia, headaches, nausea, hives, and numerous allergic reactions.

4. Cyclamate (952)

Known to cause skin conditions such as hives.

5. Acesulfame (950)

Known to cause leukemia and respiratory illnesses in animals.

Are There Any Safe Additives?

There are safe additives added to processed foods that do not cause any adverse symptoms or health complications.

There is a list of food additives considered safe for health by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

While many have not been tested, experts believe they are safe. These chemicals are included in the “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)” list of about 700 items.

However, because safe additives are essentially still ‘food additives’, they have very low nutritional value as manufacturers often remove most of their nutritional content during processing in order to increase shelf life.

Safe food additives are commonly advertised as nutritious, which tends to make the products which include them as healthy.

Yet, eating these additive-enriched products is not as beneficial as eating whole natural foods that have no additives added to them.

Some of the ‘safe’ food additives out there today include Pectin(440), Niacin (375), Lecithin (322), Tocopherols (306-309), Vitamin E, Vitamin C (300-304), Carotene (160), Vitamin A, and Vitamin B1 (101).