Taking about food additives and preservatives and the impact they can have on our health serves as an information source to warn readers of the hazards they present.
Two of the most dangerous food additives are the most common.
Although you’ll be aware they’re bad for your health, you may not be aware of the reasons why sugar and refined salt are the most dangerous food additives to your health.
What about Sugar?
Sugar can be found in almost every item of packaged food on the market, but it is one of the most dangerous substances we consume.
One of the most well-established statistics is the link between sugar consumption and the rising rates of obesity in the US, but one study performed in 2011 following participants for 20 years, concluding that those who increased their daily intake of sugary beverages gained an extra pound every four years and with each additional sugar-based beverage, the numbers grew further.
Sugar is also a high cause of type 2 diabetes. A 2013 study carried out at the Imperial College in London declared that drinking one soda per day increased your odds of developing type 2 diabetes by 22%, with each additional soda further increasing the risk by another 22%.
When excess sugar is consumed, the body releases insulin into the bloodstream which can result in insulin resistance and therefore, type 2 diabetes. Should these insulin levels rise even further, the muscle cells around blood vessels can expand, raising the risk of further health issues such as hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.
High fructose corn syrup is the form of sugar that can be found in many packaged, processed foods and a large intake of this type of sugar can result in an excess of fructose which is stored as fat in the liver, which will eventually become clogged-up and will result in liver failure.
Other studies linked high sugar intake to an increased susceptibility to colorectal cancer, premature aging, immune system suppression, depression and other mood imbalances and headaches.
How much sugar are we really eating?
Although we can monitor our conscious sugar intake through things such as high-sugar soda drinks and the number of spoonfuls we put in our coffees, the reason we consume almost 3 times the recommended amount is that it is hidden in process foods that we simply don’t pay attention to, often containing multiple different types of sugar.
Sugar can be disguised as many different types and under many different names, including (but not limited to):
- Barley malt
- Corn syrup solids
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Buttered syrup
- Glucose solids
- Malt syrup
- Cane juice crystals
The journal Nature Communications gave mice a diet that included the “safe” amount of sugar recommended by the American Heart Association and after a diet of this socially-accepted level of sugar (around the equivalent of 3 sodas a day), the mice experienced toxicity symptoms.
The female mice doubled their risk of early death, whereas the males produced 25% fewer offspring than their control group counterparts.
There are alternatives to sugar, however, that you can consciously use if you aim to cut down the amount of processed food you consume. Using organic coconut crystals in your coffee or tea, or unprocessed stevia leaves – both of which have a sweetening effect without causing the health problems you can get by consuming sugar.
Raw honey can also be used for this purpose and actually possesses a wealth of health benefits, but it is advised that you do not feed it to children under the age of one.
Sodium – or salt – is essential to many bodily functions and works towards keeping our body healthy. It is said that we need around 500 mg of sodium per day simply to stay alive and not getting enough can lead to hyponatremia, fatigue, concussion, headaches, kidney damages and in some cases can result in a coma.
However, refined salt is a chemically processed form of salt that is created by stripping away the other minerals found in natural salts, leaving only sodium chloride. Without these minerals, the result can be very damaging to our health.
In addition, refined salts are often filled with chemical food additives such as potassium iodide and sodium bicarbonate which has a dehydrating effect on the body, so it pulls water from the blood, causing a wide range of problems and conditions such as hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, water retention and gout.
A study that was published in the journal Appetite found a connection between salt and depression, claiming that women often self-medicate their depression by adding more salt to their food, which can actually exacerbate the problem further.
Similarly to sugar, over 80% of the refined salt that we consume comes from processed and fast foods, meaning it can be hard to cut it out without radically adjusting our diets. However, there are healthier alternatives.
Natural, unrefined salt can aid in stabilizing blood pressure and blood sugar, helping the body transport nutrients between cells. Unrefined sea salt is harvested from evaporated seawater and doesn’t contain any chemicals – it can be quite easy to get your hands on if you ensure you are looking for labels that specifically say “unrefined.”
Himalayan salt is another alternative that contains an array of minerals that offer health benefits, although it is vital that you are also getting enough potassium into your diet in order to balance out sodium levels.
Were you aware of the extent to which these food additives negatively impact your health? What will you be doing to make a change to your diet?