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This Common Food Additive Could Be Making You Lazier, According to a New Study

This Common Food Additive Could Be Making You Lazier, According to a New Study

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It's the latest reason to avoid processed foods.

Researchers have discovered a link between high levels of inorganic phosphate, a food preservative commonly used in processed foods like soda and processed meat, and a lack of physical activity. The research, conducted by a team at the University of Texas' Southwestern Medical Center, was published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation this month, and could help explain why less than 5 percent of the United States' adult population exercises for 30 minutes each day.

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Researchers conducted animal and human studies to better understand the effect of phosphate on overall activity levels—especially on how much time is spent being sedentary.

In the first set of studies, two groups of mice were fed similar diets, with one group being exposed to more than three times the amount of phosphate as the other. After 12 weeks, the mice exposed to higher levels of phosphate spent less time on the treadmill as opposed to those who enjoyed a "cleaner" diet. They also consumed less oxygen overall, a signal that fitness levels weren't as intense as mice who weren't exposed to high amounts of phosphate.

The human trials involved 1,603 healthy participants who wore a fitness tracker over the span of seven days. Similarly, they found that those consuming higher amounts of phosphate had reduced physical activity levels, with this group also spending less time vigorously exercising and being more sedentary overall.

More on the latest research you should know now:

Could focusing on reducing your phosphate intake actually help you become more active?

Brierley Horton, Cooking Light's nutrition director, says this research could finally push people to eat as "clean" as possible, especially since phosphates affect more than just your weight.

"We often recommend eliminating packaged foods, as it could help you eat leaner. But it seems that packaged, processed products and junk foods could be doing more than just sabotaging your diet," she said. "It could be also impacting your fitness drive."

Researchers encouraged federal agencies to require phosphate counts on the upcoming revamped nutritional facts label, which could help consumers monitor their intake. Phosphate can be found in food groups like nuts, eggs, and dairy naturally, which is used by the body to build healthy teeth and bones. But overly processed foods contain high amounts of the nutrient in order to enhance appearance or lengthen its shelf life.

According to the research, 40 to 70 percent of popular items—including cola drinks, frozen meals, dry food mixes, processed meat, and bakery products—contain added phosphate. And 25 percent of Americans consumer three to four times the recommended amount of phosphate on a regular basis.

The Common Food Additive that Promotes Obesity

A common food additive found in processed food is linked to obesity, colitis, and metabolic syndrome, according to new research from Georgia State University published in the journal Nature.

The GSU research found that emulsifiers – used to extend shelf life and prevent food from separating – alter our gut flora and promote intestinal inflammation. These changes are linked to a host of health problems: obesity, inflammatory bowel disease (including Chron’s disease), ulcerative colitis, and metabolic syndrome.

Study co-author Andrew T. Gewirtz explains that, “A key feature of these modern plagues is alteration of the gut microbiota in a manner that promotes inflammation.”

Lead study author Benoit Chassaing says that what led the team to look at food additives was the sharp rise in these disorders, “despite consistent human genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an environmental factor. Food interacts intimately with the microbiota so we considered what modern additions to the food supply might possibly make gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory.”

Emulsifiers became a popular food additive around the same time that these disorders were on the rise, so they decided to see how mice who ate a diet including emulsifiers compared to ones who didn’t. They found that mice who ingested emulsifiers tended to experience colitis and inflammation, which caused them to overeat and gain weight.

Gerwitz says that this research doesn’t discount the idea “that over-eating is a central cause of obesity and metabolic syndrome.” Instead, it sheds some light on why some people tend to overeat more than others. The GSU research suggests that “low-grade inflammation resulting from an altered microbiota can be an underlying cause of excess eating.”

The researchers also say that this research suggests that the way we test and approve food additives may not be protecting public health.

So, how can we avoid emulsifiers? The most obvious route is to avoid processed food whenever possible. If you do want to buy convenience food, here are some common names for emulsifiers that you should look out for on labels. The first two on the list (in bold) are the ones that the GSU researchers studied.

  • Carboxymethylcellulose
  • Polysorbate-80
  • Soy lecithin
  • CSL Calcium Stearoyl Di Laciate
  • PolyGlycerol Ester (PGE)
  • Sorbitan Ester (SOE)
  • PG Ester (PGME)
  • Sugar Ester (SE)
  • Monoglyceride (MG)
  • Acetylated Monoglyceride (AMG)
  • Lactylated Monoglyceride (LMG)

And these are foods that most commonly contain emulsifiers, though these chemicals can lurk in products that aren’t on this list as well:

  • Biscuits
  • Extruded snacks
  • Cakes
  • Soft Drinks
  • Toffees
  • Frozen Desserts
  • Bread
  • Margarine
  • Coffee Whitener
  • Caramels
  • Salad Dressings

This study is part of the mounting research indicating that healthy gut bacteria is key to our overall health. Avoiding emulsifiers is only one way to protect our overall gut health. Red meat messes with your gut bacteria, so choosing plant-based proteins can support gut health. Eating probiotic foods can also make a big difference in maintaining a healthy gut. Pass the kombucha, please!

What are emulsifiers?

There are a lot of emulsifiers out there and they’re in a lot of products. They’re usually named something weird like: polysorbate 20 or ceteareth 20.

Tube on the left is an emulsion tube on the right is not.

Emulsifiers are substances that create an emulsion (a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally non-mixable or unblendable) possible. Oil and water are perfect examples of ingredients that normally don’t blend.

For example:

  • Salad dressing, which has oil, water, and/or vinegar in it, normally would separate. However, most salad dressings stays all nice and blended because of #emulsifiers.
  • Ice cream and chocolate would normally not be so creamy or solid. The creamier the ice cream/chocolate, most likely the more emulsifiers.
  • Mayonnaise would normally separate on its own. Since that’s not pretty to Americans, emulsifiers are added.

So basically, without looking at every ingredient in a processed food, you can ask yourself, “Would this product normally mix together like that in nature?”

There are also emulsifiers naturally present in foods, such as lecithin in egg yolk.

This common preservative in processed food may be making you tired

By Brian Mastroianni
Published February 10, 2019 1:30PM (EST)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, file photo, soft drink and soda bottles are displayed in a refrigerator at El Ahorro market in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File) (AP)


This article originally appeared on Healthline, the world’s second-largest health information website, which brings you transparent health information so you can make confident decisions for living well.

Is it hard to motivate yourself to get off the couch and go exercise?

Well, a common food additive you’re unknowingly consuming in large quantities might be to blame.

New research sheds light on inorganic phosphate — an additive and preservative found in up to 70 percent of the foods in the common diet in the United States — and the impact it could be having on your health.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, aimed to look at the adverse impacts of consuming too much phosphate in one’s diet by examining lab mice that were given a high-phosphate diet.

The researchers measured the rodents’ oxygen uptake during exercise, showing not just less capacity for movement but also the inability to produce enough fatty acids needed to feed their muscles.

While the mice were being observed for a 12-week period, the researchers wanted to draw a comparison to humans, so they looked at the data of people who were enrolled in the Dallas Heart Study.

These individuals ranged from 18 to 65 years old, were not on any medications, and had no history of kidney or heart issues.

They wore physical activity monitors for seven days, which tied higher phosphate levels in their diets to less time spent carrying out moderate to vigorous exercise.

As with the mice, inactivity increased when phosphate levels were higher.

Lead researcher Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, professor of internal medicine and director of the Hypertension Fellowship Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center, told Healthline that she was struck by how closely the human and mice response to phosphates mirrored one another.

“Study in humans provides support for the animal studies by showing that people with high phosphate in the blood tend to spend less time in working out and more time in sedentary activity,” she wrote in an email.

What exactly are phosphates?

A phosphate is the charged particle that contains the mineral phosphorous, which the body requires to help repair and build your teeth and bones, make your muscles contract, and assist in nerve function, according to the Merck Manual.

Phosphates are found naturally in a wide range of healthy foods like meat, fish, dairy, fruits, and vegetables.

However, it is the inorganic form, saturated in many of the processed foods and drinks Americans consume, that is the problem.

“The average consumer would not know to be aware of this commercial food additive,” said Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, a senior dietitian at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical Center. “It is commonly used to prolong the shelf life of many foods, and also may enhance the flavor of some others. It is likely a very inexpensive ingredient/additive which would explain its nearly ubiquitous usage.”

It is estimated that between 40 and 70 percent of the best-selling grocery items out there like cola drinks and prepared frozen foods contain these inorganic phosphates, she told Healthline.

“That is a huge proportion of foods many Americans buy. In fact, I remember a recent Nutrition Action Newsletter article that said that even bottled orange juices — such as ‘Simply Orange’ — contain added inorganic phosphates,” Hunnes said. “In many instances, food additives are used either to provide a nutrient (like a vitamin or mineral), flavor (like MSG or salt), or some other non-nutritive property including inorganic phosphates.”

She added, “We don’t know about them because phosphates are not usually a nutrient we are told to be concerned about. Most people, unless they have kidney disease, tend to be aware of or worried about calories, fats, and types of fats, carbohydrates, and protein.”

Tamika Sims, PhD, director of food technology communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation, said that even though inorganic phosphates might be unfamiliar to many, they should be something people should have on their radar.

“In healthy adults, inorganic phosphate is metabolized as needed, but phosphate is also used in the body for nerve, bone, and muscle function. The amount of phosphate in the body is regulated by kidneys. People with kidney disease or malfunction can be at risk of phosphate level irregularity,” Sims told Healthline.

When it comes to the study, Vongpatanasin wrote that while it is necessary that our bodies process energy in the normal amounts, if that energy is used too much, it can limit the ability to burn fat into useful fuel needed during exercise.

The average consumer may be unaware that an overabundance of these particles are even in many of the foods on their dinner table. They might be annoyed to hear that not much comprehensive information has been made available by food regulators.

On current food labels, check out any mention of “phos-,” like “calcium phosphate,” for example.

Vongpatanasin added that there are no official mandates or regulations for the food industry to label exactly how much inorganic phosphates are out there circulating in the food chain.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are the ones who set requirements for food labels throughout the nation, and Vongpatanasin asserted that it is clear much more comprehensive research needs to be done.

“Although it is well known that high-phosphate diet is dangerous in patients with kidney failure, the impact of high-phosphate diet on cardiovascular heath in normal population without kidney failure has not been widely studied or recognized until now,” she wrote.

What you can do

If you’re reading this and hearing about inorganic phosphates for the first time, what should you do when you go shopping for this week’s groceries?

“In general, if you can purchase fresh or nonpackaged foods, all the better — you will not have to fear that inorganic phosphates have been added to the foods,” Hunnes said. “Otherwise, just like everything else, it seems we need to be cognizant of this ingredient in foods. Look at food labels, and search for anything containing added phosphate. You would find it in the ingredient list, anything with the word ‘phos,’ or ‘phosphate’ in it.”

She added that she would caution consumers about eating these kinds of foods, especially if they’re athletes or someone hoping to maintain an exercise regimen.

“It sounds like this would hamper your progress, work against you, and may make your workout session that much harder,” she said.

Vongpatanasin said similar thoughts are also on her mind as she moves forward with her research.

She stressed that a person should not consume more than 700 mg of inorganic phosphates per day.

She and her team are planning on carrying out a randomized study next, to see if lowering the phosphate content in the diet to 700 mg each day could be helpful in lowering blood pressure and boosting physical activity.

The bottom line

A new study published in the journal Circulation aimed to look at how the prevalence of inorganic phosphates in America’s processed food-heavy diet could be lowering a person’s willingness to stay physically active.

Over a 12-week period, lab mice were given a phosphate-heavy diet, with the mice’s activity levels declining once inorganic phosphates were increased. This was compared to data on healthy adults enrolled in the Dallas Heart Study.

As with the mice, adults with a more phosphate-rich diet saw exercise and activity drop off as phosphate levels were increased.

Experts recommend that people look for “phos” or “phosphate” on food labels, steer away from processed foods, and choose fresh, nonpackaged foods, instead.

Common Additives

Below is list of some common food additives and information about their relationship to allergic reactions and intolerances/sensitivities. If you suspect you are having an adverse reaction to any ingredient, consult a medical professional.

Flavor Enhancers

Flavor enhancers are present in many processed foods. These additives enhance flavors already present in foods, without providing their own separate flavor, and can often be natural.

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, used by the food industry to enhance flavor, is protein that has been chemically broken apart into amino acids. It is widely used in processed savory food. It can also be found in personal care products. It is typically made with soy, wheat and/or corn so it must be avoided by people with IgE-mediated allergy to those ingredients

Monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG, is a seasoning that combines sodium with glutamate, the most abundant amino acid in nature and one that provides “umami,” a savory taste. Tomatoes, parmesan cheese, soybeans, and seaweed are sources of glutamate, and the body metabolizes added MSG in the same way as it does the glutamate in these foods. Today, MSG is produced by the fermentation of plant-based sources like corn, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses, and it can be purchased for at-home cooking. There are no reported cases of IgE-mediated allergy to MSG. Although some people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG, in studies with such individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions. 2

Artificial Coloring/Dyes

These additives are used to offset color loss during production from exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture, and storage conditions, as well as to enhance colors and provide color to colorless foods. They are usually found in candies, margarine, cheese, soft drinks, jams/jellies, gelatins, puddings and pie fillings.

Annatto is an orange food coloring made from the seeds of a South American tree, Bixa orellana. This additive has been found to cause allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis and hives/swelling.

Carmine is a red food coloring made from a dried insect called Dactylopius coccus Costa. This coloring is found in various drinks, red yogurt, and popsicles. Reactions to carmine include anaphylaxis.

Tartrazine is also known as FD&C Yellow No. 5. In 1986, The FDA's Committee on Hypersensitivity to Food Constituents concluded that Tartrazine may cause hives in fewer than one out of 10,000 people. 3


Emulsifiers allow for smooth mixing of ingredients and prevent separation. They are found in such products as salad dressings, peanut butter, chocolate, margarine, ice cream and plant-based milk alternatives.

Lecithin is an emulsifier made from soybeans or eggs and therefore may contain those allergenic proteins. However, allergic reactions to soy lecithin are rare, even in those allergic to soy, as concentration is typically low in most foods.

Stabilizers and Thickeners

These additives make a food’s texture and consistency uniform and improve the way the food feels in a person’s mouth. Products containing stabilizers or thickeners include frozen desserts, dairy, dairy alternatives, cakes, pudding/gelatin mixes, dressings, jams/jellies and commercial sauces. 4

Carrageenan is the extract from a red seaweed commonly known as Irish moss, which is native to the British Isles. It has been reported to cause adverse gastrointestinal effects but reports of IgE-mediated allergy are rare.

Guar gum is made from seed of the guar plant and is high in fiber. This additive can trigger a rare allergic reaction and/or rhinitis, and there have been cases of occupational asthma in people working directly with the product. 5 Guar gum can also cause digestive symptoms, including gas and bloating.

Xanthan gum is a sugar-like compound made by mixing fermented sugars with a certain kind of bacteria. It’s often used as a binder in gluten-free products. Some people may develop gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating, gas and diarrhea.

PH Control Agents

These additives prevent spoilage and control acidity and alkalinity in beverages, frozen desserts, chocolate, canned or jarred foods and baking powder.

Citric acid is added to products to boost flavor, blend ingredients and prevent botulism in canned foods. While citric acid naturally exists in some fruits and vegetables, like lemon and tomato, it’s manufactured citric acid (MCA) that is used extensively as an additive, especially in soft drinks and candies. People can have food allergy to citrus fruits, like orange and grapefruit, but these reactions are unrelated to MCA. However, there are some documented cases of citric acid intolerance. 6

Lactic acid is produced when specific bacteria feed off sugars and is also a natural chemical in the body. It occurs naturally in fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and sourdough bread, but can also be manufactured and added to packaged foods as a preserving agent. While the word “lactic” may suggest that a product contains milk, lactic acid is not always made from milk. However, lactic acid starter cultures may contain milk. There are several additives that contain the word “calcium” or that start with “lact” that lead people to believe a product has milk in it when it may not. These include calcium lactate, calcium stearoyl lactylate, sodium lactate, and sodium stearoyl lactylate. Be sure to read the full ingredients list or call the manufacturer if you have further questions.


In addition to slowing or preventing changes in color, flavor or texture, preservatives prevent food spoilage caused by organisms such as bacteria, molds and yeasts. Preservatives are found in fruit sauces and jellies, beverages, baked goods, cured meats, oils, margarines, cereals, dressings, snack foods, and processed fruits and vegetables.

Nitrates/nitrites are used to extend shelf life and preserve foods by inhibiting growth of organisms, which can sometimes be deadly. They are also added to enhance flavors and color in packaged foods. Most nitrates in the diet occur naturally in dark leafy green vegetables. Nitrates and nitrites are commonly found in processed meats, such as hot dogs or deli meats like bologna and salami. There are reported cases of hives and itching, as well as anaphylaxis, related to nitrate.

Sulfites are also used to delay spoilage, such as preventing browning in fresh fruit or vegetables, and to extend shelf life, as in the production of dried fruit. Sulfites are often contained in beer and wine, but not clear alcohol such as vodka. Asthma exacerbations, anaphylaxis and hives are all reported reactions to sulfites however, the FDA only requires labeling on any food or beverage with a concentration greater than 10 parts per million.

The bottom line? There are more than 3,000 food additives listed on the FDA site. Though there is a rigorous approval process for the safety of additives, some people may be sensitive to certain ingredients and, in some cases, experience an allergic reaction.

Remember to read all ingredient labels every time and reach out to manufacturers if you have any questions. If you believe you experienced an adverse reaction to an ingredient, consult with a board-certified physician, ideally an allergist.

Common additive may be why you have food allergies

A Michigan State University researcher has found that a common food additive may be linked to a rise in food allergies.

Cheryl Rockwell, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the College of Human Medicine, began studying the possible link between the synthetic food additive tert-butylhydroquinone, or tBHQ, nine years ago.

Now she has received an award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to continue her work. The Outstanding New Environmental Scientist, or ONES, award comes with a $1.5 million, five-year grant to support her research.

Rockwell has dreamed of winning the award since she was a postgraduate student. She recently was notified that she was among only five researchers this year to be selected.

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1972, tBHQ is a preservative in many foods, such as cooking oil, nuts, crackers, waffles and breads. Often tBHQ is not listed on the label, Rockwell said.

Her research has shown that tBHQ causes T cells, a critical part of the body&rsquos immune system, to release a set of proteins that can trigger allergies to such foods as nuts, milk, eggs, wheat and shell fish.

&ldquoI think of the immune system as a military force,&rdquo Rockwell said. &ldquoIts job is to protect the body from pathogens, such as viruses. The T cells are the generals.&rdquo

Normally, the T cells release proteins, known as cytokines, that help fight the invaders, she said, but when tBHQ was introduced in laboratory models, the T cells released a different set of cytokines that are known to trigger allergies to some foods.

Her studies showed that when tBHQ was present, the T cells started behaving differently.

&ldquoThe T cells stopped acting as soldiers in the defense against pathogens and started causing allergies, Rockwell said. &ldquoWhat we&rsquore trying to find out now is why the T cells are behaving this way.&rdquo

The expanded use of tBHQ, she said, parallels a rise in food allergies and an increase in the severity of some allergic reactions.

With her ONES grant, Rockwell plans to study a signaling pathway she has identified in cells that appears to play a role in causing the food allergies when tBHQ is present. She hopes to identify other chemicals that trigger that same signaling pathway.

&ldquoWe think there could be quite a few,&rdquo she said, including lead and cadmium.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences created the ONES program to support researchers early in their careers and conduct innovative research to study how the environment influences human health.

&ldquoThis project is my baby,&rdquo she said. &ldquoI need to keep it going.&rdquo

Common Food Additive Promotes Colon Cancer in Mice

A popular food additive used in everything from dill pickles to ice cream is now linked to colon cancer, thanks to the way it impacts the gut.

Emulsifiers are added to most processed foods to improve food texture and extend shelf life. But it also throws off healthy levels of intestinal bacteria, triggering chronic, low-level inflammation that promotes colorectal cancer, according to a new study.

To be clear, scientists identified the potential cancer-promoting effects in an animal study. But the way I see it, it’s best to steer clear of these ingredients since various other studies suggest they impact the gut in unhealthy ways.

The finding comes on the heels of another gut breakthrough where researchers discovered fungus may trigger Crohn’s disease. Clearly, the microbiome greatly influences our disease risk. That’s why I make gut health the centerpiece of my practice and my personal health regimen.

Let’s take a closer look at this important new study, including ways to avoid this harmful class of processed food additives.

The Food Additive and Colon Cancer Connection

Hippocrates is famous for declaring that food is medicine. But his quote came long before the creation of lab-derived ingredients and processed foods. Here, we have just another example of how ingredients we often overlook can spell disaster for our health. In the recent food additive and colon cancer study, researchers at Georgia State University’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences found that mice that regularly consumed dietary emulsifiers experienced exacerbated tumor development. The results appeared in the journal Cancer Research. (1)

For this study, researchers focused on two of the most commonly used emulsifiers called polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose. They fed mice doses comparable to the cumulative amounts people would eat daily in processed foods. While the following findings need to be replicated in humans, I’m not taking any chances and will continue to avoid these “detergent-like” ingredients.

Consuming emulsifiers drastically changed the species composition of the gut microbiota in a manner that made it more pro-inflammatory, creating a niche favoring cancer induction and development, researchers pointed out. Alterations in bacterial species resulted in bacteria expressing more flagellin and lipopolysaccharide, which activate pro-inflammatory gene expression by the immune system.

If we’re eating processed foods containing emulsifiers on a daily basis, it appears we’re inducing chronic, low-level inflammation. Since inflammation is at the root of most diseases, this is a major finding. Colorectal cancer is now the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths across the globe. More and more research is honing in our how the balance of microorganisms in our gut can help prevent (or trigger) cancer and other diseases.

Low-grade inflammation, a condition more prevalent than inflammatory bowel diseases that trigger things like Crohn’s disease symptoms, was associated with altered gut microbiota composition and metabolic disease. This is what is observed in many cases of colorectal cancer. These recent findings suggest dietary emulsifiers might be partially responsible for this association. (2)

“The incidence of colorectal cancer has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century. A key feature of this disease is the presence of an altered intestinal microbiota that creates a favorable niche for tumorigenesis.” — Emilie Viennois, PhD, study co-author

Researchers point out that the sharp increase in digestive disease points to an environmental factor like food. The scientists also explain that the detergent-like molecules in emulsifiers disrupted health gut flora and also threw off healthy intestinal epithelial cell functioning in the gut in a way that promotes colon tumors.

This is a major breakthrough that suggests even low-grade gut inflammation can promote colon cancer.

A Closer Look at the Food Additive and Colon Cancer Culprits

The class of emulsifiers in question are often found in things like baked goods, frozen desserts, non-dairy creamers, ice cream and even dill pickles. As Center for Science in the Public Interest explains, they keep baked goods from going stale, keep dill oil dissolved in bottled dill pickles, help coffee whiteners dissolve in coffee, and prevent oil from separating out of artificial whipped cream. (3)

This isn’t the first time polysorbate 80 and car­boxymethylcellulose are making headlines (and not in a good way). In 2015, researchers also linked the ingredients to unhealthy changes in the gut, including altered bacteria and inflammation. That study mouse study also saw a link between those ingredients and obesity and metabolic syndrome, too. It’s possible that polysorbates and other emulsifiers act like detergents to disrupt the mucous layer that lines the gut. (4)

Final Thoughts on the Food Additive and Colon Cancer Study

  • Cut way back on processed foods to avoid harmful food additives.
  • Avoid other gut-damaging additives like carrageenan.
  • Take steps to heal leaky gut to help undo some of the damage already done, particularly gut permeability.
  • Avoid foods that contain polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose. This often includes nonorganic dill pickles, ice cream, cooking sprays and many other processed foods.
  • Beware of other emulsifiers. It’s not clear if soy lecithin also impacts the gut in a similar way.

Legal to add potentially dangerous chemicals to food products

The EWG noted that it’s currently legal for food manufacturers to add potentially harmful chemicals to food since the FDA “frequently allows” food manufacturers to determine which chemicals are safe. The FDA, which approved TBHQ decades ago, “does not consider new science to reassess the safety of food chemicals,” the group said.

“Food manufacturers have no incentive to change their formulas,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at EWG. “Too often, the FDA allows the food and chemical industry to determine which ingredients are safe for consumption. Our research shows how important it is that the FDA take a second look at these ingredients and test all food chemicals for safety.”

7. Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite

Sodium nitrate (or sodium nitrite) is used as a preservative, coloring, and flavoring in bacon, ham, hot dogs, lunch meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats. This ingredient, which sounds harmless, is actually highly carcinogenic once it enters the human digestive system. There, it forms a variety of nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc with a number of internal organs: the liver and pancreas in particular. Sodium nitrite is widely regarded as a toxic ingredient, and the USDA actually tried to ban this additive in the 1970's but was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained they had no alternative for preserving packaged meat products. Why does the industry still use it? Simple: this chemical just happens to turn meats bright red. It's actually a color fixer, and it makes old, dead meats appear fresh and vibrant.

Found in hotdogs, bacon, ham, lunch meat, cured meats, corned beef, smoked fish or any other type of processed meat.

Food Additives

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