Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fitness Training: 6 Food Additives You Need to Know by Anders N W Lindgreen

Food additives should really be renamed food modifiers, because additive suggests the addition of something positive. Yes, they do enhance colour, taste and preservation - but is that all they do and how do they actually do it? Chemically altered food products are as questionable as other chemical treatments, but since many of them have not been around for that long – and seem to have minimal immediate effects on us – we keep using them while knowing little of the long-term effects. Well, on humans that is, because there has been animal trials, and whether you oppose animal trials or not, the results may give us an indication on what’s in store for us. And if you are serious about your fitness training you know to put much emphasis on what you actually put into your body and its quality.

Here are 6 food additives to look out for:

1. Sodium Nitrate

It’s a preservative used in meat that also enhances taste and colour. Studies have linked sodium nitrate to various types of cancer and it is considered especially dangerous under high-temperature cooking.

2. BHA and BHT

BHA and BHT is another preservative used in common household products to prevent the fats from going rancid. Like with sodium nitrate, the BHA and BHT structure may change during the food preservation process and may form into a dangerous compound in our bodies.

3. Propyl Gallate

Propyl Gallate also acts as a preservative for fats and oils and is often used in conjunction with BHA and BHT. Studies done on animals suggest that it may be linked to cancer.

4. Monosodium Glutamate

Enough with the preservatives, because this baby is a flavour enhancer used in salad dressings, chips, restaurant foods and quite often in Asian foods as well. MSG (for short) may cause migraine-like headaches and nausea in some people.

5. Aspartame

This sweetener is often seen in diet foods where it’s substituting the taste for whatever “unhealthiness” that was removed in the first place. Again, links have been made between this additive and cancer and there is also a special warning to people with the enzyme disorders phenylketonuria.

6. Acesulfame-K

This is one of the new artificial sweeteners around. It’s commonly used in soft drinks, baked goods and chewing gum. Some studies show that it’s linked to cancer in rats, but as with most additives – long-term data is limited.

To Ban or Not to Ban

That is indeed the question. While I can see the benefits in banning certain additives, one must consider the implications of doing such a thing. Since this would inevitably make companies lose money, is there a chance that they would bring forth an even less researched compound to use that may be even more dangerous than the last one? You see, if you lock away the beer from the teen, they might go for the liquor. It’s not a perfect metaphor but it suggests that banning additives may not be ideal.

What Can We Do

You can simply start by limiting the amount of processed foods you consume. Clearly no one will bring a cheat sheet to the supermarket to investigate everything they put in their trolley and what dodgy additives they may contain. That’s not realistic. But you can limit the intake or choose products that use natural preservatives, additives and flavouring only. It’s not perfect but it’s doable and it’s a start. We are basically going for food products with very little human intervention, rather than the opposite.