A food additive is any substance (not commonly regarded or used as food) which is used to modify a food’s chemical, physical, or organoleptic (affecting the senses) characteristics. It is commonly added to stabilize a product or to change the flavor, color, texture, or consistency of food items or as a preservative so that they retain their properties for longer periods of time. With an increase in the usage of food additives since the 19th century, there has been a great concern with regard to their safety in relation to human health. Today, there are scientific evidences that prove the link between the use of food additives and the development of various physical and mental disorders.
Saccharin and aspartame are the most commonly used sugar substitutes. They are added to beverages, diet sodas, or soft drinks and are used in the sweet food industry as sweetening agents. Research has shown that these food additives can result in birth defects, neurological imbalances, and even cancer. Overuse of saccharine has been associated with bladder cancer, while excess consumption of aspartame containing products has been related to skin and breathing problems, seizures, headaches, and mood disturbances.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is an additive that is often added to soups, sauces, frozen foods, and Chinese preparations to enhance the overall flavoring. But little do people know that eating too much of monosodium glutamate can damage the nerve cells of the body and cause frequent, throbbing headaches. Further, it has been found to elevate the risk of suffering from obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disorders.
Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are another form of preservatives, which are detrimental to health when consumed. Frequently used as a meat preservative, these are suspected to be one of the causes for stomach cancer. The nitrite present in the additive combines with a harmful compound to form nitrosamines – an extremely powerful cancer-causing chemical. Similarly, potassium bromate, usually used in breads and rolls, has been reported to increase the possibility of developing certain types of cancer.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are preservatives added to fats and oils to prevent them from getting oxidized and going rancid. These additives have been found to be carcinogenic. Therefore, consuming them in large amounts can actually trigger cancer. In addition, butylated hydroxyanisole has also been associated with the development of bronchial asthma, cholesterol imbalances, and hyperactivity. Reading the food labels of products before buying them is the best way of keeping away these unsavory additives. Moreover, going natural – eating more of fresh, whole organic foods, and cutting down on processed, canned, and packed products – can help you make your diet healthy.