Food Additives and Preservatives

In this post I want to touch on what those numbers on the back of packets or jars actually mean. Now this is a sensitive topic for me as I am actually super sensitive to 621 or MSG (Monosodium Glutamate). I avoid this at all costs.

Food additives are actually man made substances that are added to foods to enhance their flavour, colour and appearance and longevity. I’m not talking about vinegars used for pickling, and salt and sugars for preserving as these have been used for centuries.

Not all additives are harmful and bad for you. There are approx 300 plus additives that have been proven safe in Australia and seem to cause little to no problems in people. But there are around 50-60 food additives in our foods that in my eyes remain questionable in terms of safety. Did you know that some of these preservatives have actually been banned from foods and products in other countries as they have been found to be harmful, or have adverse effects, yet in Australia are still used in common products.

In my eyes these are the main offenders.

  1. MSG (monosodium glutamate) 621. As a sufferer of MSG allergy it is so hard to avoid this offender. But we have to try to avoid it where possible. MSG is used to enhance flavours, it is addictive and excitatory. MSG can be found in Chinese foods, Thai foods and even Japanese foods. I have read studies and research by the hundreds on this when trying to work out what was happening to me when I was eating this. It has been shown to damage appetite, there is a link to obesity and it can impact the brain and even kill precious brain cells. It has a huge effect on the nervous system too.

    Some symptoms of sensitivity include: swelling of the lips, bloating, migraines, depression, sleep disorders, altered conscious state and even seizures.

    Detecting MSg is becoming even more tricky, as food manufacturers are aware that consumers are now looking for MSG free products as this sensitivity is becoming more common. So manufacturers are using a loop hole and using other names, or using free-glutamates which doesn’t need to be listed on the label. Free- glutamates can behave exactly like MSG.

    In saying this, how can we avoid MSG and free-glutamates? Be very wary of any numbers that start with the number 6 – these are flavour enhancers similar to MSG. 621, 620, 623, 624, 631 and 635.
  2. Artificial sweeteners. 951-967. This is a pretty sore topic for a lot of people, as often lead to believe artificial sweeteners are better for us as they don’t contain the calories, therefore assisting with conditions such as diabetes. A controversial topic since its approval way back in 1981. Scientific data shows that it causes brain tumours in rats, there has been papers on its link with alzheimers and acting as a neurotoxin which can be stored in fat cells. One place that is made up mainly of fat is, yes the BRAIN. There are even a lot of studies showing a direct correlation with OBESITY, due to its trickery it plays on the insulin and leptin receptors (The main hormones involved in satiety that say hey brain, I’m full, stop eating now).

    That’s right, this no calorie sugar can actually be making us fat? Aspartame is not the sole contributor by any means, however along with numerous scientists it has been shown to be a potential contributing factor, to many of these conditions.

    Its not just “sugar free” drinks that contain these artificial sweeteners, they can be found in, rice crackers, sausages, “health food” high protein bars and the list goes on.
  3. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFSC)– this is a highly refined artificial sweetener which is fast approaching number 1 source of calories in Australia. Sadly it is so prominent and found in a huge amount of processed packaged foods. HFSC can actually contribute to obesity, diabetes and actually increases LDL (bad cholesterol).
  4.  Sodium Nitrate is used as a preservative, a colourant and a flavour in common consumed foods. Bacon, hot dogs, ham, smoked fish and other processed meats (on the avoid list for pregnant mothers and small children?) What is so bad about this additive? Well would you believe they actually tried to ban this in the 70’s by the USDA but was barred by food manufacturers, as they didn’t have an alternative for preserving meats? Now I am not saying don’t eat bacon, as I for one am a huge bacon lover, I often try to find nitrate-free ham and bacon, and only eat processed meats sparingly, so enjoy your ham sandwich and bacon ……occasionally.

I am a firm believer that everything in moderation is the key to health. I’m not suggesting we can’t enjoy eating out, or having Chinese food, it’s all about being aware. Awareness is all I can ask of my patients of a practitioner. What are you putting in your mouth, or the mouths of your family members? Are you making the best choices for the health of you and your family? 

We are all trying to do our best and when we make conscious decisions we can better understand why exactly we are choosing these. Are we pressed for time? Perhaps we need to wake earlier, or ask for help? Maybe we need to get organised on a Sunday afternoon for the week? Is our diet rich in packaged and processed foods with preservatives and crazy ingredients that sound like they are written in another language? Perhaps our diet is deficient and lacking in real, wholesome fresh, homemade foods.

If you feel like you need help with understanding your choices, or feel overwhelmed when you do your weekly shop, get in contact with me.