How are our bodies influenced by the additives, colorants and preservatives whose use in the regular food industry is allowed?
Some people think that if these additives were harmful, there would be laws banning their use. And so, our own (eco)logical point of view is pushed aside. Lawmakers, however, claim that not enough scientific evidence has been collected over a sufficiently long period of time to give reason to ban these substances.
The only way in which we can influence the direction of the conventional food industry and the range of products offered by it is to raise our own awareness as consumers and to choose healthier alternatives.
Therefore, it would be useful to know the impact that additives, colorants and preservatives have on the human body.
1. Studies have shown that synthetic colorants can cause allergies, headaches, hyperactivity, learning and attention disorders. They have also been associated with intestine problems.
Synthetic colorants are added to many products to improve their appearance and color and to make them more appetizing. A wide-reaching study by Schab and Trinh (2004) covered the impact of synthetic colorants on children’s behavior. The study found that children’s behavior improved when artificial colorants were removed from their diet, and worsened when their food contained synthetic colorants.
A study by Sasaki (2002) determined the genotoxicity of the 39 most commonly used additives in the industry. Synthetic food colorants, preservatives and synthetic sweeteners were tested on mice. From all the additives, synthetic colorants were the most toxic. They caused DNA damage in the pancreas, the colon, the urinary tract and the digestive system.
2. Many studies have found a link between flavor enhancers (glutamates) and damages in the nervous and hormonal system and heart functions.
It increases the chance of diabetes and excess weight, it also increases appetite. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), for example, is used to induce obesity or diabetes on test animals in order to study obesity or diabetes medication. Monosodium glutamate is one of the most widely used flavor enhancers in the world.
A study conducted in China (He, 2008) among 752 people (aged 49-50, with 48.7% of them women) proved that there was considerably more excess weight among people who ate food that contained sodium glutamate than among people who ate food not containing MSG. The results showed that MSG could be associated with a higher risk of being overweight.
A study conducted in Ohguro in 2002 added monosodium glutamate to rats’ food for three months. This had a considerable impact on the glutamic acid in the vitreous body; the retina was also damaged.
3. Studies have found a causal relation between headaches, increased appetite, cancer, etc. and the use of synthetic sweeteners.
Synthetic sweeteners are used in the regular food industry to replace sugar, as they contain very little or no calories. This way, the calorie count in products can be lowered. Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, and thus, the amounts needed to achieve the same level of sweetness are much smaller. The most widely used sweeteners are aspartame and saccharin.
In his 1994 study, S.K. Van den Eeden found a connection between aspartame and headaches. In 2005, laboratory analyses found a lot of lymphomas and leukaemia among rats who had been fed a larger amount of aspartame.
In conclusion, the use of hundreds of different synthetic additives in food products is allowed. Organic processing tries to preserve the natural state of the products and only use 36 additives of natural origin. Considering the results of many studies, some of which were referred to above, food from the organic food industry is certainly safer for consumers than food from the conventional food industry.
– Report “Quality of Organic vs. Conventional Food and Effects on Health”, Estonian University of Life Sciences, 2011
– Schab DW and Trinh NH. 2004. Do artificial food colors promote hyperactivity in children with hyperactive syndromes? A meta-analysis of double-blind placebo-controlled trials”. Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics: JDBP 25 (6): 423–34
– Sasaki YF, Kawaguchi S, Kamaya A, Ohshita M, Kabasawa K, Iwama K, Taniguchi K and Tsuda S. 2002. The comet assay with 8 mouse organs: results with 39 currently used food additives. Mutat. Res. 519, 103–119
– He K, Zhao L, Daviglus ML, Dyer AR, Van Horn L, Garside D, Zhu L, Guo D, Wu Y, Zhou B, Stamler J. 2008. Association of monosodium glutamate intake with overweight in Chinese adults: the INTERMAP Study. INTERMAP Cooperative Research Group. Obesity (Silver Spring). 16(8): 1875–80
– Ohguro H, Katsushima H, Maruyama I, Maeda T, Yanagihashi S, Metoki T and Nakazawa M. 2002. A high dietary intake of sodium glutamate as flavoring (ajinomoto) causes gross changes in retinal morphology and function. Exp Eye Res. 75(3): 307–15
– Van den Eeden SK, Koepsell TD, Longstreth WT, van Belle G, Daling JR and McKnight B. 1994. Aspartame ingestion and headaches. Neurology. 44(10): 1787–93