... This preservative is used to prevent rancidity in foods that
contain oils. Unfortunately, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) has been
shown to cause cancer i
n rats, mice, and hamsters. The reason the
FDA hasn’t banned it is largely technical—the cancers all occurred in
the rodents’ forestomachs, an organ that humans don’t have.
Nevertheless, the study, published in the Japanese Journal of Cancer
Research, concluded that BHA was “reasonably anticipated to be a
carcinogen,” and as far as I’m concerned, that’s reason enough to
eliminate it from your diet.
preservatives are used to inhibit mold and yeast in food. The problem is
parabens may also disrupt your body’s hormonal balance. A study in Food
Chemical Toxicology found that daily ingestion decreased sperm and
testosterone production in rats, and parabens have been found present in
breast cancer tissues.
3. Partially Hydrogenated Oil
harped on this before, but it bears repeating: Don’t confuse “0 g trans
fat” with being trans fat-free. The FDA allows products to claim zero
grams of trans fat as long as they have less than half a gram per
serving. That means they can have 0.49 grams per serving and still be
labeled a no-trans-fat food. Considering that two grams is the absolute
most you ought to consume in a day, those fractions can quickly add up.
The telltale sign that your snack is soiled with the stuff? Look for
partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredient statement. If it’s anywhere
on there, then you’re ingesting artery-clogging trans fat.
4. Sodium Nitrite
Nitrites and nitrates are used to inhibit botulism-causing bacteria and
to maintain processed meats’ pink hues, which is why the FDA allows
their use. Unfortunately, once ingested, nitrite can fuse with amino
acids (of which meat is a prime source) to form nitrosamines, powerful
carcinogenic compounds. Ascorbic and erythorbic acids—essentially
vitamin C—have been shown to decrease the risk, and most manufacturers
now add one or both to their products, which has helped. Still, the best
way to reduce risk is to limit your intake.
5. Caramel Coloring
This additive wouldn’t be dangerous if you made it the old-fashioned
way—with water and sugar, on top of a stove. But the food industry
follows a different recipe: They treat sugar with ammonia, which can
produce some nasty carcinogens. How carcinogenic are these compounds? A
Center for Science in the Public Interest report asserted that the high
levels of caramel color found in soda account for roughly 15,000 cancers
in the U.S. annually. Another good reason to scrap soft drinks? They’re
among The 20 Worst Drinks in America.
Castoreum is one of the many nebulous “natural ingredients” used to
flavor food. Though it isn’t harmful, it is unsettling. Castoreum is a
substance made from beavers’ castor sacs, or anal scent glands. These
glands produce potent secretions that help the animals mark their
territory in the wild. In the food industry, however, 1,000 pounds of
the unsavory ingredient are used annually to imbue foods—usually vanilla
or raspberry flavored—with a distinctive, musky flavor.
7. Food Dyes
Plenty of fruit-flavored candies and sugary cereals don’t contain a
single gram of produce, but instead rely on artificial dyes and
flavorings to suggest a relationship with nature. Not only do these dyes
allow manufacturers to mask the drab colors of heavily processed foods,
but certain hues have been linked to more serious ailments. A Journal
of Pediatrics study linked Yellow 5 to hyperactivity in children,
Canadian researchers found Yellow 6 and Red 40 to be contaminated with
known carcinogens, and Red 3 is known to cause tumors. The bottom line?
Avoid artificial dyes as much as possible.
8. Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, used as a flavor enhancer, is plant
protein that has been chemically broken down into amino acids. One of
these acids, glutamic acid, can release free glutamate. When this
glutamate joins with free sodium in your body, they form monosodium
glutamate (MSG), an additive known to cause adverse reactions—headaches,
nausea, and weakness, among others—in sensitive individuals. When MSG
is added to products directly, the FDA requires manufacturers to
disclose its inclusion on the ingredient statement. But when it occurs
as a byproduct of hydrolyzed protein, the FDA allows it to go