Additives are used to extend the product’ shelf life, enhance the flavor, appearance or texture of a product.
Some of these substances have been associated with adverse health effects and should be avoided, while others are safe and can be consumed with minimal risk.
Here are 12 of the most common food additives, plus recommendations for which ones to keep out of your diet.
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1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a common flavor enhancer.
A 1969 study of mice found that large amounts caused harmful neurological effects and impaired growth and development (PubMed.gov).
MSG consumption has also been associated with weight gain and metabolic syndrome in some observational studies. (US National Library of Medicine-National Institutes of Health).
2. Artificial Food Coloring
Artificial food coloring is used to make food appealing to the consumer’s eyes. Specific food dyes like Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 have been associated with allergic reactions in some people ((US National Library of Medicine-National Institutes of Health).
Concerns have also been raised about the potential cancer-causing effects of certain food dyes.
3. Sodium Nitrite
Frequently used in processed meats, sodium nitrite is used as a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria while also adding a salty flavor and reddish-pink color.
When exposed to high heat and in the presence of amino acids, nitrites can turn into nitrosamine, a compound that can have many negative effects on health.
One review showed that a higher intake of nitrites and nitrosamine was associated with a higher risk of stomach cancer (US National Library of Medicine-National Institutes of Health).
4. High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn. It’s frequently found in soda, juice, candy, breakfast cereals and snack foods.
It’s rich in a type of simple sugar called fructose, which can cause serious health issues when consumed in high amounts.
In particular, high-fructose corn syrup has been linked to weight gain, inflammation, and diabetes. Inflammation is believed to play a central role in many chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. (US National Library of Medicine-National Institutes of Health).
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