Food additives vary from common food ingredients like sugar and salt to the uncommon ones like acesulfame-potassium and BHA. These additives maintain freshness, add flavor and prolong shelf life of processed foods. Although they are considered safe in amounts typically consumed, some food additives may have a negative impact on our health.

Acesulfame-K

This is also known as Acesulfame-potassium and it is an artificial sweetener that is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is used in baked foods, diet sodas, sugar-free gum, mouthwash and toothpaste. Consumers should avoid acesulfame-K because animal studies suggest it may affect the thyroid and cause cancer. In 2008, research published in “Preventive Medicine” found that consuming artificial sweeteners for over 10 years is associated with development of urinary tract tumors. Also a study in the journal “PLoS One” in 2013 shows that if pregnant women drink artificially sweetened soda during pregnancy it could increase the risk of asthma and allergies in children.

Aspartame

This is another artificial sweetener found that can be found in 6,000 products, and has been associated with cancer. According to an article published in 2014 in the “American Journal of Industrial Medicine,” the widespread use of aspartame and its possible role as a carcinogen in both epidemiological and animal studies calls for action of regulatory agencies to re-evaluate use of aspartame.

Food Colors

Brightly colored foods like candy, carbonated drinks and gelatin desserts contain food colors manufactured from chemicals that should be avoided. This include food colors like Blue 1, Blue 2 and Red 3 which have been associated with cancer in animal studies; Red 40 causes allergy like reactions; Yellow 5 allows hypersensitivity and hyperactivity in children; and Yellow 6 with adrenal gland and kidney tumors in animals. Caramel coloring gives color to cola products, baked products, sauces, chocolate products, and beer. It contains two compounds, 4-methylimidazole and 2-methylimidazole which are known to cause cancers in animals. Amounts of these chemicals in caramel food coloring often exceed guidelines.

Chemical Antioxidants

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) and propyl gallate are three chemical antioxidants added to fried foods such as potato chips and vegetable oils. They inhibit rancidity in fats and oils as they increase shelf life of processed foods. Be aware that these food additives may be possibly associated with cancer in experimental studies. Therefore consume as little as possible of foods made with these chemical antioxidants.

Man-Made Fat

Adding hydrogen to vegetable oil forms a butter like food ingredient which is known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and it contains trans fats. Trans fats raises risks of cardiovascular diseases and deaths as a result of heart attacks more than saturated fats does. Avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetables oil by always reading the ingredient list on food labels. Olestra is a man-made fat that gives fried foods such as chips the taste and look of regular chips, without adding to the calorie intake as it is not digested in the body. Olestra does not only inhibit absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids from fruits and vegetables but it could also cause flatulence, cramps and diarrhea that can be severe in some cases.

Preservatives

Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrites are common preservatives used in processed meats in order to maintain its red color and prevent bacterial growth. This includes hot dogs, luncheon meats, ham and bacon. Consuming foods rich in nitrates and nitrites can increase risks of cancer as a result of the formation of carcinogenic compounds called nitrosoamines.