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What is a food additive? As stated by the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21-Food and Drugs, Food additives includes all substances not exempted by section 201(s) of the act, the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result, directly or indirectly, either in their becoming a component of food or otherwise affecting the characteristics of food." According to an article by S.E. Smith, food Additives are chemical substances added in food to enhance safety, flavor, appearance, and texture of the food. Without additives, several foods would be green and sour before they even get to the store shelves. Sugar would clump up together, mayonnaise would separate, and cotton candy would be hard as a rock. There are two types of food additives, direct and indirect. Direct Additives are those added to food intentionally, to create a desired look. Indirect additives are those that are added unintentionally while the food was being processed, packaged, stored, or however it was handled. Most direct additives are listed on the food labels, since this is a general rule for manufacturers. Based on the EHSO website, there are five main reasons why food additives are used; to improve nutritional value; to maintain product consistency; to maintain its wholesomeness; provide leavening; and enhance the color and flavor. The use of food additives is one of the major issues today. It stirs confusion and concerns whether these additives being added to the foodstuff is in fact safe or dangerous.
Food additives have been used for thousands of years. As there is no exact history of when and how food additives were discovered, it is assumed by researchers that additives were first used when humans have learned to preserve their crops on different harvesting times. However, the productivity of the food and achieving a desired look has been practiced for centuries, from the Egyptian to Roman times and up until today. Both groups have used food colorings, spices, and other additives to enhance the appearance and taste of their food. Historically, salt, herbs, and certain fats were used as processing aids. Salt was used to preserve hams, add flavor to the foods, and to control fermentation of vegetables and fishes. Given that there were no food inspections back in the days, food manufacturers took advantage of putting more than enough of additives in their food products and adulterating them, to deceive consumers. According to John Farley, chalks, whiting, and ashes of bones were used as flour in bread, and adulterations like this were commonly practiced then.
Most people are not aware that food additives are in almost all the foods. They take the additives for granted. "People who say they don't like chemicals in their food had better get used to it," stated Fergus Clydesdale Ph.D., A professor and head of the department of food science at the University of Massachusetts. "Every food is made up of thousands of chemicals. More than 90 percent of food additives come from compounds that were originally found in nature." As more consumers demand for a more appealing and convenient food with vitamins and other nutritious ingredients that are lacking in one's body, manufacturers have developed food products that meet those demands using such chemical substances. In addition to that, companies have also produced food that lasts longer by using preservatives. However, before additives can be used in foods, manufacturers must first file a petition to the FDA for approval. The FDA regulates and goes through rigorous studies and tests to determine the amount of safety levels of different food additives before deciding to release it to the food industry.
According to the FAIA, an association that represents UK manufacturers, without the use of food additives, the foods in the markets, restaurants, and even those cooked from home, would look and taste unusual, and the benefits that the additives have to offer would not exist. The FAIA, also known as the Food Additives and Ingredients Association, supports food additives and promotes their essentials to the public. They have concluded that having food additives and preservatives are necessary, especially in today's world where importing and exporting is becoming highly popular. As stated in their site, using additives reduces waste, and the need of farm lands, water, and energy.
But, are people also aware of the downside of the chemical substances being added to their food? And how such additive can affect them if consumed too much? For centuries, and up to now, the food industry has been constantly producing chemical additives to manipulate, preserve and alter the food products. Such manipulation can have a great effect on one's body. Some consumers have concerns of whether all additives that have already been tested are actually safe or not. Even those that are approved by the FDA can be risky for those who have allergic reactions to such food because of the additives that were added in them. Many people are also concern of the side effects food additives have brought to them and their children. Common concerns include adverse reaction, ADHD, and other allergies.
The people that are most affected by the use of food additives are the children, because they start consuming as infants, but human bodies were not developed to be exposed to a certain degree of chemicals and food additives. ADHD, otherwise known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is one major concern for parents. According on webMD health news, there is a new study that insinuates that the use of chemical additives in the food can increase the cause of hyperactivity amongst children. Food colorings and preservatives affect a child's ability to focus and learn. A study in the UK acknowledged that artificial food colorings and other additives increases the mean level of hyperactivity in children aged 3 and 8 to 9 years. These children were divided into groups having 153 three-year-olds as one group and 144 eight to nine-year-old as the other. Both group received drinks containing sodium benzoate and artificial food colorings. These results showed an increase in overactive, impulsive, and inattentive behavior. Monosodium glutamate is also one example that can severely affect a child's behavior. MSG is an excitotoxin, which means that it acts to over agitate the neurons of the central nervous system causing physical and psychological problems which can worsen and become permanent damages.
Aside from ADHD, children and even adults can suffer from obesity as well. Even those that have been FDA approved can be a contribution to obesity. Children who ate processed foods in fast food restaurants ate at least 126 calories than on days they did not. Throughout the year, these children have gained about 13 pounds just from fast food. Sodium nitrate can be found in processed meats, as this is convenient, cheap, and can produce a lot, most fast food chains often choose this as their best choice of meat to provide to consumers. Sodium nitrate is actually dangerous, since it is believed to be the primary cause of pancreatic cancer in humans even if consumed with a moderate quantity. Manufacturers use this type of chemical substance because it turns the meat bright red, which again attracts consumers. Monosodium glutamate, again, is one of the main additives that can contribute to obesity. Up to now, scientists injects MSG on lab rats to use in diet and diabetes test studies, where they found out that monosodium glutamate can be a factor of obesity, but still, manufacturers use it to enhance flavor and induce consumers into liking their products. MSG is an addictive substance, causing people to eat more, thus leading to obesity. In fact, the dosage of prepackaged meals, fast foods, and other fast foods have increased each time, as the FDA has not set a limit of how much it can be added to the foods. They had asserted that it is safe to eat in any amount. The reason why MSG is added to food is because it helps the elderly eat more, as Glutamate Association stated, "Studies have found that adding MSG to certain foods, such as soup and mashed potatoes, has been successful in increasing the food intake in institutionalized elderly populations." But this amino acid can agitate body organs especially the brain. Too much MSG in the brain can overexcite the neurons causing migraines and headaches as well. There are other symptoms that have been reported too; numbness, burning sensation, facial pressure or tightness, chest pain, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness, weakness, and have difficulty breathing for people with asthma. Although, some might not have side effect, others can become very sick. Aside from obesity, these additives can cause other side effects as well. Another chemical additive people should be concerned about is aspartame, which has over 92 reported side effects, and one of them weight gainer. According to Janet Starr Hull, aspartame can lead to side effect and adverse reactions including; eye problems such as decreased in vision, pain in one or both eyes and blindness; ear problems such as hearing impairment; neurologic diseases like epileptic seizures, migraines, memory loss, and severe tremors; psychological ailments such as depression, insomnia, and aggression; and other serious reactions like birth defects, brain damage, death, and many more. Foods that include hydrogenated fats or oils can also contribute to obesity. As a typical body, it is essential to have fatty acids to function normally, but a hydrogenated fat has zero essential fatty acids. It prevents the absorption of nutrients in other words its nutrient dead. So not only does it not have nutrients, it also takes away nutrients from other food. Another harmful type of fat is called trans fatty acids or TFA which is found in most processed foods.
According to an article from the PR Newswire, pancreatic cancer is increased by 6700 percent due to the chemical additives that has been added during the processing of the meats. A study led by Dr. Ute Nothlings was done at the University of Hawaii having people eat a large amount of processed meats, revealed that although there is no specific evidence that sodium nitrate actually causes cancer, something in the processed meat triggers this. The chemical substances that were added during the packaging of the meat have somewhat contributed to causing cancer. There are a few studies that link processed food and pancreatic cancer together as to how sodium nitrate link up with leukemia and brain tumors in children and infants. Artificial food colors contain petroleum and other petrochemicals. According to an article on AvainWeb, the human body is not used to consuming petrochemicals due to the fact that it causes risk to the health. As the food companies want to attract consumers, manufacturers use petrochemicals in their food products, without taking into account the health conditions it can affect on people. However, quite a few of artificial colors have been removed from stores and have also been prohibited, because it has been discovered that it can cause cancer. Even natural food color can be harmful too. Allergic reactions can still be triggered even with natural food additives. Carmine, which many people are not aware of, is made out of insects and other chemicals. It is used as a food dye in products such as juice, yogurt, ice cream, and candies. Soft drinks, flavored minerals, fruit drinks: these all contain benzene in them. Benzene is another additive that people should be alert of as this can cause nausea, rapid heart rate, and death. Based on the AvianWeb, benzene can lead to an acute myelogenous leukemia when consumed too much, which is a cancer of the blood-forming organs. Benzene can have major affect on the bone marrow and decreases red blood cells which can lead to anemia. Apart from those side effects, benzene can also affect the immune system due to excessive bleeding, which can increase a chance for infections. It is not certain, but they have also mentioned that benzene could affect fertility in men and irregular menstrual period and the decreasing in size of the ovaries for women.
According to Jean Weiss, a contributor to MSN Health and Fitness, there is a few more food additives people should be aware of such as olestra, sulfite, sodium chloride, and even caffeine. Olestra is known as synthetic fat that inhibits fat from getting absorbed in one's digestive system. It can have serious side effects, as it grabs the beneficial nutrients out of the body. Useful nutrients like carotenoids, which protects the body from diseases including lung and prostate cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration. Apart from those diseases, olestra can also cause diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and other gastrointestinal problems. Sulfite is a common preservative that is used on dried fruits, bottled fruit drinks, gravies, and many more. Based on an article by Dr. Blaylock, this additive can also be harmful to one's health as it can be fatal, increase asthma symptoms for those who are asthmatics, causing damages to the nervous system, damaging one's brain or causing other brain diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. It can also cause depression, panic attacks, and anxiety. Allergies such as hives and anaphylaxis can also be triggered by being exposed to sulfites. Another additive that people are already aware of when shopping for groceries is sodium chloride. Sodium chloride is commonly known as table salt. Yes, it is used every day by almost everyone. Processed food usually contains a high level of sodium chloride, and people should really be careful. During the refining process, the 99.9 percent sodium chloride in the table salt will be lessened and the natural minerals will be stripped away and be replaced with aluminum and anti-caking agents. Consuming too much sodium chloride can affect one's kidney and adrenal glands, reduces calcium and other valuable nutrients found in the body. It can also contribute to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Caffeine, which is found naturally in coffee, tea and cocoa, can elevate the stomach-acid secretion causing peptic ulcers. It can also affect reproduction and cause birth defects such as cleft palates, missing fingers and deformity of the skull. Caffeine can be very addicting that is why some people have a hard time stopping themselves from consuming too much sodas, coffee, and other drinks containing this additive. People who try to withdraw themselves from using caffeine will have symptoms such as headaches, drowsiness, and bad tempers. Pregnant women or those who are planning to get pregnant should avoid consuming caffeine as this can cause birth defects and miscarriage.
Avoiding toxins and the chemical additives mentioned is an important step to help improve lowering the risks of diseases. Toxins may affect one's health causing minor side effects and other health conditions. Those that have immediate effects may feel headaches, might feel a change in their energy level, and may affect their mental concentration, behavior or immune response. Those with long-term effects could be at risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other serious health conditions. By avoiding certain additives and by not consuming such chemical substances on a regular basis, it can help improve one's health resulting to a longer healthy life.
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