Avoiding all food additives might be a fruitless task with more than 3,000 additives used in foods, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Additives are used to enhance flavor, texture or self life, and range from salt and sugar to chemical compounds.
Experts say that reading nutrition labels on packaged foods is helpful to stay healthy and is a way to judge the quality of the food you are purchasing. Although most additives are deemed safe by the FDA, some recent research on food additives has caused some concern.
Here are a few additives to keep your eye on, according to ConsumerReports.org.
Nitrates and nitrites
Used as preservatives in processed meats, such as bacon, hot dogs and deli meat.
Concern: When cooked at high heat, the added nitrites can generate nitrosamines, which might be carcinogenic. Some research has shown that eating as little as half an ounce of deli meat or half a hot dog daily increases the risk of premature death.
A type of sugar used to enhance flavor by adding a mild sweetness to foods. Trehalose is also used to extend a product’s shelf life and improve texture.
Concern: Research has shown a connection with Trehalose and Clostridioides difficile infections, which causes inflammation of the colon and diarrhea.
Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed and is used as a stabilizer and to give products such as frozen desserts, yogurts, and plant milks a creamy taste and texture.
Concern: Carrageenan can cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. People with inflammatory digestive conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome, have reported symptom relief when avoiding carrageenan.
Acesulfame potassium, aspartame and sucralose are sugar substitutes that are sweeter than sugar and have few or no calories.
Concern: Research has shown that artificial sweeteners might be associated with increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and can cause harmful changes in the gut microbiome.
A sugar alcohol that is used as a sweetener in sugar-free versions of foods like candy, cookies and gum. It is also used as an emulsifier and anti-caking agent.
Concern: High doses of sorbitol can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea.
Phosphorus additives, such as phosphoric acid and disodium phosphate are found in a number of processed foods. Experts have said phosphorus from additives is more readily absorbed when it occurs naturally in food.
Concern: High phosphorus intake is hazardous for people with kidney disease or those at risk for it. Too much phosphorus can also cause bones to become brittle and has been linked to increased levels of cardiovascular risk.