Food Additives

Even in the blood type diet, as in any other healthy lifestyle, the choice of fresh food is suggested, limiting as much as possible the consumption of processed or pre-packed foods. A long series of food additives (sulfur dioxide, glutamate, sulfites, nitrites, nitrates, etc.) are contained in preserved, dried, pre-packed, frozen, that is, in all those foods that we have become accustomed to using because they facilitate the task of who, for lack of time or passion, or both, prepares food.

Additives (acidity correctors, dyes, preservatives, thickeners, antioxidants, etc.) are used to make foods more marketable. Although not all of them are mentioned, these substances are reported in the nutritional factors on the product packaging.

Current laws and various researches establish a threshold beyond which the single additive becomes dangerous, but they do not deal with studying the consequences of the accumulation of multiple additives. Most people consume a certain number of food containing additives every day, without calculating the quantity of the doses they take: involuntarily they always end up ingesting them in doses higher than allowed. In particular, children are at risk because of their low body weight; they are more likely to exceed the “daily doses” that the laws do not consider harmful for these products.

If you are a regular consumer of pre-packaged, frozen, deep-frozen products, etc, we recommend limiting their use, paying more attention to the choice of food that is free of additives or that contains as little as possible. If you buy organic food, the consumption of additives decreases a lot: by law, most food additives cannot be used in organic products and those allowed are the least dangerous.

If you buy organic food, you must always check the ingredients among the nutritional factors. If, on the other hand, you mainly choose fresh products prepared at home, your blood will be happier, your immune system will have great benefits by giving you a life of health and physical and mental well-being.


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The preservatives sodium or potassium nitrate and nitrite fight harmful bacteria in bacon, ham, salami, and other processed and cured meats and also gives the meats pink coloration. However, under certain conditions, nitrite can damage cells and cause cancer. In an effort to minimize cell damage while still preventing foodborne illnesses such as botulism, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforces a limit of 200 parts of nitrate/nitrite preservatives per million parts of meat, by weight.

How do nitrates and nitrites damage the body? This involves a little bit of chemistry. Nitrates (NO3) differ from nitrites (NO2) by only one oxygen atom. Nitrates are turned into nitrites by bacteria in the mouth or enzymes in the body. Then, nitrites can either turn into nitric oxide (NO; good) or nitrosamines (bad).1 If nitrite loses an oxygen atom, it turns into NO, which reacts with the oxygen-binding proteins in the meat, changing its color. However, when nitrites are exposed to high heat in the presence of amino acids, they can turn into compounds called nitrosamines.1 There are many different types of nitrosamines, most of which are well-known potent carcinogens.2 Nitrosamines are among the main carcinogens in tobacco smoke. Because most bacon, hot dogs, and other processed meats tend to be high in sodium nitrite and amino acids, exposing them to high heat during cooking creates the perfect conditions for nitrosamine formation.3 It is important to keep in mind that nitrosamines mostly form during high heat. Even though vegetables also contain nitrates and nitrites, they are rarely exposed to such high heat when cooking.

Carcinogenic nitrosamines are a well-known problem in processed meats, and manufacturers are required to limit the amount of nitrites they use. To minimize daily exposure to nitrosamines, choosing “nitrate-free” meats is recommended.

Artificial food coloring makes many foods more appealing and desirable. Every year, food manufacturers pour 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes into US foods. The safety of these dyes has been called into question, and the FDA requires that the artificial food coloring currently permitted for use meet strict safety requirements. However, recent scientific studies have linked food coloring to a number of potential health problems, most notably certain types of cancer in animals and attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity in children.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), 9 of the food dyes currently approved for use in the United States are linked to health issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions. For instance, Red #40, which is the most widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune-system tumors in mice and also triggers hyperactivity in children. Blue #2, used in candies, beverages, pet foods, and more, was linked to brain tumors. And Yellow #5, used in baked goods, candies, cereal, and more, may not only be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals but is also linked to hyperactivity, hypersensitivity, and other behavioral disorders in children. Another dye, Red #3, has been acknowledged for years by the FDA to be a carcinogen, yet it is still in the food supply.4

The effects of artificial food colors on children’s behavior has been studied for more than 35 years. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the ingestion of synthetic food colorings and behavioral change in approximately 800 children, 1 of 6 dose levels (1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 mg) of tartrazine (Yellow #5) was administered randomly each morning, and parents recorded behavioral ratings at the end of each 24-hour period. Significant reactions were observed at all 6 dose levels. With a dose increase of >10 mg, the duration of the effect increased. The study concluded that increases in irritability, restlessness, and sleep disturbance were associated with the ingestion of tartrazine in some children. A dose-response effect was also observed.5

A 2012 publication examined the controversial topic of artificial food coloring and hyperactivity in children, and the authors gave testimony to the 2011 FDA Food Advisory Committee. The authors noted that while artificial food colors were not a major cause of ADHD, they did seem to affect children both with and without ADHD.6 A 2009 publication reviewed clinical studies and a meta-analysis of 15 double-blind clinical trials and found that artificial food coloring increased hyperactive behavior in already hyperactive children. The paper concluded that it was best for children to avoid artificial food coloring.7

An emulsion in food is a mixture of oil and water, such as in ice cream, milk, and salad dressing. Approximately 15 different emulsifiers are commonly used in processed Western foods for purposes such as smoothing the texture of ice cream and preventing mayonnaise from separating. The FDA rules that emulsifiers are “generally regarded as safe” because there is no evidence that they increase the risk of cancer or have toxic effects in mammals. However, a study published in Nature in 2015 suggested otherwise. Scientists fed common emulsifiers, carboxymethylcellulose, and polysorbate-80, in water to healthy mice with their diet otherwise unchanged. They found that the mice became obese and developed metabolic problems such as glucose intolerance. In mice genetically engineered to be prone to inflammatory gut diseases, emulsifiers also showed an increase in the frequency with which the animals developed inflammatory bowel disease and in its severity. The most severe health effects were seen in mice that consumed the chemicals at a level similar to that of a person whose diet consists of only ice cream. But the researchers saw effects even at one-tenth the concentration of emulsifiers that the FDA allows in a food product.8

References:

  1. Honikel KO. The use and control of nitrate and nitrite for the processing of meat products. Meat Sci. 2008;78(1-2):68-76.
  2. Brown JL: N-Nitrosamines. Occup Med. 1999;14(4):839-848.
  3. Scanlan RA. Formation and occurrence of nitrosamines in food. Cancer Res. 1983;43(5 Suppl):2435s-2440s.
  4. Kobylewski S, Jacobson MF. Food dyes, a rainbow of risks. Accessed March 24, 2016.
  5. Rowe KS, Rowe KJ. Synthetic food coloring and behavior: a dose-response effect in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures study. J Pediatr. 1994;125(5 Pt 1):691-698.
  6. Arnold LE, Lofthouse N, Hurt E. Artificial food colors and attention-deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics. 2012;9(3):599-609.
  7. Artificial food coloring and hyperactivity symptoms in children. Prescrire Int. 2009;18(103):215.
  8. Chassaing B, Koren O, Goodrich JK, et al. Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome. Nature. 2015;519(7541):92-96.


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