It’s no secret that processed foods are bad for us. What is surprising is some of the truly “nasty” ingredients that are actually being put into food. I’m not just talking about refined sugars or high fructose corn syrup, but some seriously scary stuff. Most of us check the labels on the food that we buy but it’s hard to spot the offending chemicals when they are hidden behind scientific jargon. I mean, would you actually buy groceries that contained “paint chemicals”, “herbicide”, or “beaver anal gland juice”? Yes, you read that correctly. Here are 9 scary ingredients added to foods that might have you paying closer attention:
What Is It? – A calorie-free artificial sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is often used with other artificial sweeteners to mask a bitter aftertaste.
Where It May Found – More than 5,000 food products worldwide, including diet soft drinks and no-sugar-added ice cream.
The Breakdown – Although the FDA has approved it for use in most foods, many health and industry insiders claim that the decision was based on flawed tests. Animal studies have linked the chemical to lung and breast tumors and thyroid problems.
What Is It? – A near-zero-calorie artificial sweetener made by combining two amino acids with methanol. Most commonly used in diet soda, aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar.
Where It May Be Found – More than 6,000 grocery items including diet sodas, yogurts, and the table-top sweeteners NutraSweet and Equal.
The Breakdown – Over the past 30 years, the FDA has received thousands of consumer complaints due mostly to neurological symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, memory loss, and, in rare cases, epileptic seizures. Many studies have shown aspartame to be completely harmless, while others indicate that the additive might be responsible for a range of cancers.
What Is It? – A component of the metallic element titanium commonly used in paints and sunscreens. The food industry adds it to hundreds of products to make overly processed items appear whiter.
Where It May Found – Processed salad dressing, coffee creamers, and icing.
The Breakdown – Titanium is a mined substance that’s sometimes contaminated with toxic lead. Plus, most white dressings (like creamy ranch) aren’t really great for you anyway. A better alternative may be an olive oil- or vinegar-based salad topper instead.
What Is It? – The active ingredient in the popular weed killer, Roundup. It’s used on corn and soy crops genetically engineered to withstand a heavy dousing of the chemical.
Where It May Found – Most non-organic packaged foods containing corn- and soy-derived ingredients. Because it’s a systemic herbicide, it’s taken up by the plant—meaning you eat it.
The Breakdown – Glyphosphate exposure is linked to obesity, learning disabilities, and infertility.
What Is It? – A petroleum-derived antioxidant used to preserve fats and oils.
Where It May Found – Beer, crackers, cereals, butter, and foods with added fats.
The Breakdown – Studies have shown BHA to cause cancer in the forestomachs of rats, mice, and hamsters. The Department of Health and Human Services classifies the preservative as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”
What Is It? – A semi-soft fat created by chemically blending fully hydrogenated and non-hydrogenated oils. It was developed in response to the public demand for an alternative to trans fats.
Where It May Found – Pastries, pies, margarine, frozen dinners, and canned soups.
The Breakdown – A study by Malaysian researchers showed a 4-week diet of 12 percent interesterified fats increased the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol. Furthermore, this study showed an increase in blood glucose levels and a decrease in insulin response.
What Are They? – Food dyes that are orange-red and cherry red, respectively. Red #40 is the most widely used food dye in America.
Where They May Be Found – Fruit cocktail, candy, chocolate cake, cereal, beverages, pastries, maraschino cherries, and fruit snacks.
The Breakdown – The FDA has proposed a ban on Red #3 in the past, but so far the agency has been unsuccessful in implementing it. After the dye was inextricably linked to thyroid tumors in rat studies, the FDA managed to have the liquid form of the dye removed from external drugs and cosmetics.
What Are They? – The second and third most common food colorings, respectively.
Where They May Be Found – Cereal, pudding, bread mix, beverages, chips, cookies, and condiments.
The Breakdown – Several studies have linked both dyes to learning and concentration disorders in children, and there are piles of animal studies demonstrating potential risks such as kidney and intestinal tumors. One study found that mice fed high doses of sunset yellow had trouble swimming straight and righting themselves in water. The FDA does not view these as serious risks to humans.
What Is It? – Beaver anal gland juice. Not kidding. Beavers combine it with their urine to mark their territory.
Where It May Be Found – Vanilla or raspberry flavoring in processed foods, labeled only as “natural flavoring.”
The Breakdown – It’s beaver anal gland juice!
List courtesy of abcnews.com and additional research by Leah Zerbe and Amy Rushlow.
Now this wasn’t meant to freak you out (even though I’m guessing it might have) but was really intended to bring attention to some of the awful additives in certain foods. It seems that buying and eating healthy may be more difficult then we realize, creating a real need for registered dieticians. Utilizing their knowledge can help us navigate our way through the ever growing maze of nutrition.
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