Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute. HFCS is a dietary disaster with dire consequences. Consuming the stuff have been connected to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high triglyceride levels, which are all precursors to heart disease. But believe it or not, there are other additives that are just as bad for us, or even worse for us, than this sugar-like sweetener. Food manufacturers put all sorts of nasty things in our food in the name of extended shelf life, cheaper manufacturing cost, and appetizing appearance. If you're looking to boost your health or want to lose 10 pounds, we suggest you start reading labels so you can avoid these gross additives.
A metal oxide known for lending a white hue to paints, plastics, toothpaste, sunscreen and cosmetics, titanium dioxide is also used in food products like milk, cheese, marshmallows, Greek yogurt, and mayonnaise. Titanium dioxide has a bigger ick factor than being a liquid metal. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified it a possible carcinogen in humans. It has also been linked to asthma, emphysema, DNA breakdown, and neurological disorders. Since it has absolutely no value as a nutritional supplement or as a preservative other than keeping artificial foods white, there’s no reason TD should be in our food supply.
Sodium Nitrites & Sodium Nitrates
Sodium nitrites and sodium nitrates are preservatives used to prevent bacterial growth and maintain the pinkish color of meat products. They’re found in many bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and packaged meats products, including things like beef jerky. Why should they be of concern? Under certain conditions, sodium nitrites and nitrates can react with amino acids to form cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines.
Although it may sound benign, caramel coloring, the coloring most often used in soda and candy, has been proven to cause cancer in animals. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer deemed the additive to be “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” We prefer our drinks and meals to be free of artificial coloring and carcinogens. If you want to avoid the additive, be sure to scan food labels—even when it comes to things like frozen meals and lunch meats. The additive is seriously lurking everywhere!
In 2007, artificial colorings Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine) and Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow) were found to promote attention-deficit disorder in children, but that hasn’t stopped U.S. food manufacturers from putting it in kid-friendly foods like mac and cheese, crackers, chips, and even soft drinks and juices. Norway and Sweden have banned the use of these artificial colors, and in the rest of the EU, foods containing these additives must be labeled with the phrase: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
Brominated Vegetable Oil
Citrus-flavored sodas like Diet Mountain Dew and Fresca contain brominated vegetable oil (BVO), a chemical that’s banned in Europe, India, and Japan. Human studies have linked the substance to neurological impairment, reduced fertility, changes in thyroid hormones and puberty at an earlier age. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have agreed to phase BVO out of their sodas, but it’s still actively used in many of their products, as well as drinks made by Dr. Pepper/7Up Inc.
Check your breakfast cereal. Do you see butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) or BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) on the ingredient label? If you do, walk to the garbage can and throw it out. This common additive in cereals (including many of these 20 Worst "Good-for-You" Cereals), chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils has been found to deplete the neurological system in your brain and to cause cancer—which is precisely why it’s banned in most of Europe, Australia, and Japan.
Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
This manufactured trans fat is created by forcing hydrogen gas into vegetable fats under extremely high pressure. Food processors like to use it in their products because of its low cost and long shelf life. You’ll find it in a large portion of margarines, pastries, frozen foods, cakes, cookies, crackers, soups, fast food items, and nondairy creamers. Though trans fat has been shown to contribute to heart disease more so than saturated fat, its artery-clogging effects extend beyond your heart. Reduced blood flow can impact everything from brain function to sexual function. While most health organizations recommend keeping trans fat consumption as low as possible, a loophole in the FDA's labeling requirements allows processors to add as much as 0.49 gram per serving and still claim zero in their nutrition facts. Sneaky!
There is some good news, though. The Food and Drug Administration recently finalized a plan that will require all food companies to remove partially hydrogenated oils from their products within the next three years. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean you'll never see a trans fat ever again. Companies can petition the FDA to let them keep using PHOs, though PHOs will no longer be "generally recognized as safe" for human consumption. The FDA says this legislation has the potential to reduce coronary heart disease dramatically and prevent thousands of heart attack deaths each year.
Developed in response to demand for trans fat alternatives, this semi-soft fat is created by chemically blending fully hydrogenated and nonhydrogenated oils. Though testing on these fats has not been extensive, the early evidence doesn't look promising for our collective health. A study by Malaysian researchers showed a four-week diet of 12 percent interesterified fats increased the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol, which isn’t a good thing. This study also showed an increase in blood glucose levels and a decrease in insulin response. A more recent 2014 Brazilian animal study found that the man made fat can harden and narrow of the arteries, the two primary causes of heart attacks and strokes. Many pastries, margarine, frozen dinners, and canned soups contain the additive, so be sure to keep reading labels so you can steer clear. And to learn about more creepy things that may be lurking in your food, don’t miss our exclusive report, The Scary Toxins Hiding in Your Cookware and Storage Containers.
Sodium phosphate is an additive made of sodium and phosphate that's used to keep meats moist and tender during storage.The additive is used in a sizable share of sausages, lunch meats, hams, chicken nuggets, and canned fish. Even though phosphates are necessary for our diets, excess phosphate—especially the inorganic phosphate that’s added to food—is more easily absorbed by the body. When high levels of phosphatase seep into the blood, it can increase the risk for heart disease. (To keep your ticker safe, avoid these 30 Foods That Can Cause Heart Disease, too!) Doctors have also linked the compound to higher rates of chronic kidney disease, weak bones, and premature death.
These synthetic dyes are used to produce most conventionally produced blue, purple, and green foods such as beverages, cereals, candy, and icings. Both Blue #1 and Blue #2 have been loosely linked to cancers in animal studies, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends avoiding them—and we agree. If you typically reach for a colorful cereal in the morning, why not replace it with one of these 50 Best Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss? They're all free of scary colorings and additives.