Nasty ingredients can be found in foods like bread, milk and meat sold in the average supermarket, health experts have warned.
They have also explained how these additives can negatively affect our bodies, from causing minor headaches and fatigue to major issues like heart disease and cancer.
Research by health and fitness site Vivotion.com has highlighted the most common culprits, including high fructose corn syrup, MSG and emulsifiers.
Here are some of the most common additives found in your everyday food and how they harm your body.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
This sweetener, made from corn, is popular with food manufacturers because it’s cheaper and sweeter than cane sugar, and it maintains its moisture while preserving freshness. This is all well and good, but it is also believed to contribute to heart disease and is extremely common in processed food. In addition to accelerating the aging process, it also raises cholesterol and triglyceride fats in the blood, making it more prone to clotting.
Nitrates are a synthetic food preservative often added to cured meat like bacon. When nitrates are exposed to high heat during the cooking process, they convert to nitrites which, when combined with different types of amines – which are found in everything from cheese and wine to chocolate and fish – form cancer-causing nitrosamines.
This is essentially a catch-all term referring to man-made chemicals that have been created in a laboratory to taste the same as natural flavours such as vanilla, strawberry or lemon. It’s very common because it’s cheaper to use in most products, but they have been known to cause chest pains, headaches, fatigue, and allergies, and some studies suggest they can even cause changes in behaviour.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener commonly used in diet drinks and some food products. Aspartame has been controversial for years and has been reported to cause seizures, headaches, mood disturbances, and even cancer.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is a flavour enhancer made up of components naturally found in our bodies, such as water, sodium and glutamate – but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Often used in seasonings, condiments, and crisps, it reportedly causes headaches, nausea and even seizures. It can also be referred to as ‘hydrolysed soy protein’ or ‘autolyzed yeast’.
Sodium Benzoate is used as a preservative in both drinks and food items and is often found in milk and meat products. When used in products that also contain food colourings – such as carbonated drinks – it may increase hyperactivity in children, and it can also react with vitamin C in food items like canned vegetables to create a cancer-causing substance called benzene.
Emulsifiers, made from vegetable fats, glycerol and organic acids, extend the shelf life of bread products and allow liquids that wouldn't normally mix, such as oil and water, to combine smoothly. As a result, they’re often found in low-fat spreads, ice cream, margarine, salad dressings and many other creamy sauces.
Studies suggest emulsifiers have the potential to damage the intestinal barrier, leading to inflammation and increasing our risk of chronic disease. Ingredient labels might simply list ‘emulsifiers’, but you should also look out for more specific terms such as ‘lecithin’, sorbitan monostearate’ and ‘mono-/di-glycerides or fatty acids’.
Ammonium sulphate is an inorganic salt commonly used in the baking industry to improve the volume and shelf life of bread – but excessive consumption of the chemical can cause major short-term gastrointestinal disease.