In this modern age of processed foods, artificial chemical are used for a variety of reasons.
There can improve the taste, extended shelf life and ultimately keep costs low for manufacturers.
However, this unnatural process means we can no longer take what is in our food for granted; we must research.
Food these days is not simple - do you know what you are eating?
Food additives are an excellent example of "hidden" ingredients that are in foods.
Almost everyone has heard of them, but how many of us take the time to find out what they are, which ones appear in our food and how they might affect our health?
Well, the answer to that is more and more of us - particularly as the health benefits of natural living (and, more specifically, an organic diet) become better understood.
As a result, health-conscious individuals seeking to minimise their daily exposure to toxins and pollutants take the trouble to educate themselves about the different types of food additives out there (including their supposed risks and benefits).
This has caused controversy across society, and people are now questioning the basics.
"The nature of the modern diet and lifestyle has resulted in fewer home-grown and whole natural foods."
"Knowledge is power, so know your E-numbers!"
Below is a list of the "need to know" basics that will help educate you on the foods you consume daily.
The basics, as the name implies, food additives are substances that manufacturers add to foods for many reasons (usually to increase profits).
For example, to preserve flavour, keep the food fresher for longer and enhance taste, texture and appearance.
However, not all food additives are harmful, despite the negative connotations with the phrase.
Some are natural compounds - for example, vinegar used for pickling and salt used to preserve meat.
These additives have been used for centuries and are natural methods.
Similarly, there is a common misconception that processed foods automatically contain food additives, but this is not always the case.
For example, long-life milk is processed, yet it doesn't actually require added chemicals to prolong its shelf life.
Unfortunately, the vast majority now used are synthetic or human-made.
This is mainly due to the increasing time constraints of modern living and modern consumers' changing palates.
For instance, the average person is looking for a snack that is either highly salted or sweetened. Not ideal.
Similarly, in this age of competitive advertising, we have seen a direct correlation to brighter, highly coloured food being picked over fresh foods.
As a result, we have increased the number of processed food.
In turn, this has led to an increased number of additives used in foods - both natural and synthetic.
Therefore, it is essential to inform yourself about them to help ensure you and your family's health is improved.
If you are unsure whether or not a product contains additives, check the label.
If there are ingredients that sound like a chemistry experiment, they are probably best avoided!
It is also important to note that some listed ingredients may contain food additives themselves, without those necessarily being specified.
For example, a product may contain margarine, which includes additives, but only margarine will be listed as an ingredient on the label.
It is good practice to familiarise yourself with some of the more common food additive names, ready to identify them when out and about shopping.
Below we will take a look at some of the most notorious additives - E-numbers.
E-numbers - friend or foe?
E-numbers get a lot of media attention, but, once again, the reality is a little different to what is often portrayed.
The phrase itself conjures up images of food nasties, but are they as bad as we are led to believe?
Well, firstly, let's look at what they are.
After an additive has been tested and approved for use in foods in Europe, it is given a classification. Regulation EC 1333/2008. Specific rules have been set on food additives, such as definitions, conditions of use, labelling and procedures.
In other words, it is simply a systematic way of identifying different food additives.
Countries outside Europe use only the number (no 'E'), whether the additive is approved in Europe or not.
The important (and perhaps surprising) point to bear in mind is that even natural additives will be labelled.
Knowledge is power, so know your E-numbers!
Are food additives safe?
This is a controversial question and one that has not been answered satisfactorily as yet.
However, common sense dictates that filling our bodies with synthetic chemicals cannot be as healthy as eating a diet rich in whole natural foods.
These additives can be detrimental to our health, for instance, by adding to our toxic load.
But since the second half of the 20th century, there has been a significant increase in the use of food additives of varying levels of safety.
This has necessarily led to the introduction of a wide range of laws worldwide regulating their use.
Unfortunately, the long-term effects on the body of regularly consuming a combination of different food additives are currently unknown, hence regulating regulation.
This is largely because most additives are tested in isolation rather than in combination with other additives.
However, what is clear is that some people are sensitive to them and suffer reactions due to their consumption. These reactions include:
- skin irritations (itching, rashes, hives etc.)
- digestive disorders (including diarrhoea and abdominal pains)
- respiratory problems (like asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis)
- allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock
- behavioural changes (such as mood changes, anxiety and hyperactivity)
Research is undertaken in 2007 by Britains Food Standards Agency and later published by the British medical journal The Lancet provided evidence that a mix of additives commonly found in children's foods increases the mean level of hyperactivity.
Similarly, in 2008, AAP Grand Rounds (the American Academy of Pediatrics) published a study that concluded that a low-additive diet is a valid intervention for children with ADHD.
It is essential to remember that all foods are made up of chemicals, many of which are not always safer than those found in food additives.
For example, people with food allergies and intolerances are often sensitive to chemicals found naturally in certain foods, such as dairy, nuts or shellfish.
However, it is always a good rule of thumb to opt for natural ingredients over synthetic ones and to adopt an organic lifestyle wherever possible.
Additives to watch out for!
- Flavour enhancers: A well-known example is monosodium glutamate (MSG E621). They are commonly found in crisps, instant noodles and microwave and takeaway foods.
- Aspartame: This is an artificial sweetener, which is made of phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol (a type of alcohol). When broken down in the body, methanol forms formaldehyde, formic acid (found in the venom of ants and bees) and diketopiperazine - all quite nasty substances! Aspartame is found in diet drinks, yoghurts and sugar-free items (like chewing gum).
- Sulphites: This group of additives is often found in dried fruit, desiccated coconut, cordial and wine. They have been known to trigger asthma attacks in sensitive individuals.
- Propionates: This type of additive can occur naturally in foods (e.g. certain types of cheese). They are also common in bread. The effects are dose-related and may range from migraines, bed-wetting, nasal congestion, racing heart to memory loss, eczema, and stomach ache.
- Antioxidants: Don't get confused with the naturally occurring antioxidants found in whole foods like fruit and vegetables and widely used to support good health and immunity.
Antioxidants in food additives refer to synthetic chemicals that are added to food and may therefore hurt the body.
Examples include Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), which are added to prevent fat spoilage.
They are commonly found in margarine, biscuits, crisps and muesli bars.
They have been linked to health conditions such as insomnia, tiredness, asthma and even learning difficulties.
- Colours: The most common offenders in this category of additives are tartrazine (E102) and annatto (E160b). Synthetic colourings have been linked to allergic reactions, as well as learning and behavioural problems in children.
Categories of additives
Preservatives, colourings and flavourings are some of the best-known additives.
However, there are several other categories, each of which is tailored to a specific purpose. These include:
- anti-caking agents
- antifoaming agents
- bulking agents
- colour retention agents
- flavour enhancers
- flour treatment agents
- glazing agents
- tracer gas
- and thickeners
There are currently over 3000 additives used in food across the world, most of which are synthetic!
Our goal at Inner Health is to become a platform of education for those seeking to control their health.
We have an array of supplements engineered to help support the natural human process.
Health-conscious individuals now seek to minimise their daily exposure to toxins and pollutants. They are educating themselves on the different types of food additives.
At InnerHealth we specialise in providing 100% Clean & Organic Herbs that are scientifically backed to provide optimal health for our customers - Why not try us today and ensure you are putting the very best nutrients into your mouth!