You are what you eat but what the hell are you eating?

“Antibiotics and growth hormone are other additives being excessively pumped into the animals we are eating, which means we’re then consuming these excess antibiotics and hormones. And some processed foods actually contain toxic chemicals, often used to prevent spoilage and enhance flavour”  Kristin Cavallari

Have you ever wondered what goes into the food that we all eat on a regular basis? What makes all those bright colours and the sweet creamy taste? Well, quite simply it’s chemicals that are added as part of the manufacturing process and they are designed to make the food last longer, change its colour, flavour or texture; the question is why?

Well, while it’s not true of all additives, some are included in processed or refined foods to make them more desirable to the consumer in much the same way as nicotine was added to cigarettes to make them more desirable or, in other words, addictive. There is even something called the Yale Food Addiction Scale which measures the predisposition for addiction to high fat and sugary foods. Unfortunately, as well as the addiction side of food additives there is also the ‘this can seriously damage your health side of things!

For example, when manufacturers cottoned on to the fact that people were looking for a quick fix to weight gain, they introduced ‘diet’ sodas and used chemicals to produce the sweet taste that consumers craved. This is the ingredients list for one diet soda that’s drunk world-wide:

Carbonated Water, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Aspartame, Natural Flavors, Acesulfame Potassium, Caffeine.

Let’s break down some of these ingredients to see what they actually are:

Caramel colour is, as it says, a food colouring and one that the State of California has classified as a potential carcinogen (i.e. a substance capable of causing cancer). This study concludes that “Given that a sizable fraction of the U.S. population consumes these beverages, and high consumption by some persons, a substantial cancer burden may persist even if exposures are reduced”

Phosphoric acid is used to add the fizzy tang; as a chemical substance it’s not really something that you want to be coming into contact with as your skin, eyes and breathing can be adversely affected by the fumes. Added to that, studies have shown that one of the most popular sodas containing phosphoric acid can have a negative effect on bone density in older women.

Potassium Benzoate is (apparently) used to protect the taste of the product; unfortunately this chemical is also a known mutagenic i.e. something that will cause mutations in our body’s cells which could then lead to the body producing tumours.

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener which is found in thousands of so called ‘diet’ products. When aspartame is consumed over a long period and in quantity it has a toxic effect on the body as it elevates free radical levels. The authors of this study said “Since aspartame consumption is on the rise among people, it is essential to create awareness regarding the usage of this artificial sweetener”

Acesulfame Potassium (also known as Acesulfame K and E950) is another artificial sweetener which, critics say, has the potential to cause cancer. The FDA looked at the chemical and declared that it is “safe up to an acceptable daily intake”; I don’t know about you but that doesn’t really fill me with confidence!

If you think that drinks are bad, wait until you see what’s in the food that you eat. We had a look at the ingredients list for one of the burgers from a well-known fast food chain

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Salt, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Honey, Onion Powder, Natural Flavor, Dried Vinegar, Rice Starch. Grilled with Clarified Butter (Pasteurized Milk [Butterfat]). Wheat Flour or Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour or Bleached Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Dextrose, Salt, Contains 2% or Less: Natural Flavors, Corn Flour, Soybean Oil, Calcium Sulfate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Peroxide, Enzymes, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Vegetable Proteins (Pea, Potato, Rice), Sunflower Oil, Turmeric, Paprika, Corn Starch, Wheat Starch, Acetic Acid. Pork Bellies Cured with Water, Salt, Sugar, Natural Smoke Flavor, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite. Water, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Tomato Paste, Distilled Vinegar, Onions, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Contains 2% Or Less; Chili Pepper, Soybean Oil, Onion Powder, Mustard Seed, Natural Flavor, Sodium Benzoate And Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Xanthan Gum, Spices, Citric Acid, Turmeric, Paprika, Garlic Powder. Milk, Water, Cheese Culture, Cream, Sodium Citrate, Contains 2% or Less: Salt, Citric Acid, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), May Contain One or More of: Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Pyrophosphate, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Enzymes, Acetic Acid, Soy Lecithin. Onions, Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sunflower, Safflower and/or Canola Oil, Salt.

That’s a pretty impressive list for a bacon/cheeseburger isn’t it? Let’s have a look at a few of them to see what you are really eating:

Monocalcium phosphate and sodium phosphate the addition of phosphates to our modern diets have been linked to kidney failure and heart problems (Have a look at the number of other ‘phosphates’ there are in this ingredients list.)

Sodium Benzoate (E211) is a food preservative and, when it is mixed with vitamin C, something called benzene is formed which is a known carcinogen.

Potassium Sorbate (E202) is another preservative. Recent studies at universities in Turkey concluded that it should be “labeled as a genotoxic and mutagenic compound because it damages white blood cells.”

Xanthan Gum is an emulsifier and also a highly effective laxative!

Calcium Peroxide (E930) is a flour bleaching agent and has also been labelled as a hazardous substance by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.

Sodium Nitrite (E250) is yet another preservative. According to this article, foods treated with sodium nitrite contain n-nitroso compounds which have been shown, in animal experiments to be “the most broadly acting and the most potent group of carcinogens”

All in all there really is very little in this list that we can recognise as being natural or in its original state which is worrying.

The ingredients we have looked at along with the risks that they present to our health are all contained within one meal – a burger and a soda – that’s it; we haven’t thought about the fries that might go with it or the donut that might come afterwards and the additives that they contain………

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