Food additives can pose a danger to your health. Although not all of these additives are bad, there are numerous substances used in processed food products that have either been proven to have harmful long-term effects or that have unknown consequences in the long term. How can you identify these additives in food? We have all had the experience of looking at the list of ingredients in our food and puzzling over long names that would seem more at home in a chemistry lab than in a kitchen. These ingredients’ names definitely do not sound appetizing. However, many people do not bother to ensure that these ingredients are not in their food, due to a lack of education and to the easy access to food that is prevalent in the modern world. This is true even though the vast majority of the items on mainstream supermarket shelves are processed products that are chock-full of additives.
Additives are added to processed foods for many reasons, in particular, because food products and cosmetics need to last longer in order to boost the manufacturer’s revenue. To enhance shelf life is the primary aim of most food additives. There are also additives that are used to make food taste or look better, or to keep a particular flavor or color in the food from degrading over time. Preserving food is not a new phenomenon. Mankind had been preserving food naturally for generations, using salt, herbs, or various kind of preservation methods. However, advances in food technology and globalization of manufacturing methods and food distribution have lead to artificial additives and preservatives becoming the most common means of food preservation in the second half of the 20th century.
There are four kinds of chemical additives that see widespread use in processed foods benzoates, sulphites, sorbates, and nitrites. These four kinds of additives are used because they prevent yeasts and molds from growing on the processed food product. They also kill existing molds and yeasts in the treated foods. However, just as they have an effect on these kinds of microorganisms, the four kinds of additives listed above can have adverse effects on your own body and on the balance of the microorganisms that naturally populate your gut. The most common food additive is sulfur dioxide. This preservative is used as a bleaching agent. However, it is not the only one the list of commonly used food additives contains more than three-hundred different chemical products! It is even more worrying that many food additives known today to be toxic were actually commonly used decades before.
While it is true that there are agencies whose task is to test additives thoroughly, they are not foolproof. In fact, it is not a rare occurrence for food additives thought to be safe for consumption to be found to have toxic effects in particular cases or in the long term. In general, food additives and processed foods can cause headaches, weakness, nausea, and even breathing problems. In fact, there are certain food additives that can even damage delicate, non-regenerating cells, such as your nerve cells. Since man-made food additives have not been around for a long time, and are relative newcomers, many of their effects are still being discovered. In fact, the kinds of foods that were being eaten one-hundred years ago in most of the world would now be considered organic. Because of this, it is important to remember that food additives will not be banned anytime soon. Research takes a long time, so it may be decades before certain food additives are proven to be dangerous or harmful. This is why consumers should decide for themselves by becoming informed on potential food additive risks or avoiding them altogether whenever possible.