I have known for a long time that certain food additives can have a detrimental effect on your health, but until recently I haven’t put much attention on this issue, as I thought that there are more important things to focus on. However, in the past few months I have had some negative experiences that I can attribute to various food additives with great certainty. I don’t think anymore that food additives are only a minor issue.
To be clear, I do believe that sometimes food additives are necessary: for example, preservatives must be added into some food products, to prevent them to spoil, as food poisoning can be lethal. In such cases, it is necessary to consider both benefits and possible risks of a particular food additive and choose the safest additive that will do the job.
However, a lot of additives are totally unnecessary as far as safety is considered, and their only purpose is to make food more appealing in some way, so it sells more. Artificial sweeteners, flavorings and colors can make some junk, which you would otherwise not even consider eating, look and taste good. But, there is a price to pay, as many of these additives can have negative effect on your health. Sure, they are present only in very small quantities, but consuming them year after year, from various foods, their combined effect can be too much for your body, especially if you have other health issues as well.
Which brings me to drugs and dietary supplements. Believe it or not, they can also be jam-packed with various food additives, which makes me furious. People that take drugs and supplements are usually the people who are already sick and the last thing they need is to be gobbling down even more harmful substances!
Personally, I had a bad experience with a red artificial color best known as “Ponceau 4R”, which has a code E124 (“E number”). This is a food color additive that is commonly used in the European Union (EU), but it is not approved in the United States. Ponceau 4R is considered carcinogenic in some countries and has other harmful effects as well. I am very disappointed that EU, where I live, allows this additive in food. I am pretty sure that this artificial food coloring caused me irregular heartbeats on two different occasions: two years ago I was taking dietary supplement in the form of red capsules (dyed with E124). Irregular heartbeats started after a few months of taking the supplement and stopped within a week after I stopped taking it. Three months ago the problem repeated with a different product: I had sore throat and was taking red throat lozenges for a few days and I developed exactly the same symptoms, which also went away soon after I stopped taking the medication. Not surprisingly, the one (and only) substance that both products have in common is red colorant E124.
I also developed eczema a month ago on one of my fingers. The culprit is less obvious, but I suspect it was caused by sodium benzoate (E211), a preservative that was in a juice that I was consuming for about two weeks every day before this happened. Sodium benzoate was present also in my toothpaste.
Since then I became super cautious and I read all labels on food, drugs and dietary supplements, and even on cosmetics. If possible, I choose products that have no artificial sweeteners, flavorings, colorings or preservatives. I changed my multivitamin brand because the old one contained blue artificial colorant indigo carmine (E132), which can also be problematic according to some sources on the internet, and might had contributed to eczema on my finger. I could care less if my vitamin pill has a nice blue color. But I sure want it to be non-toxic!
Avoiding certain food additives is not an answer to every problem related to food, but it is a good start. I think the following link offers a fairly good introduction to the dangers of certain food additives: Your print out guide to the dirty dozen food additives. For more in-depth reading have a look at this link: Chemical Cuisine – Learn about Food Additives.
Do your own research on food additives. However, beware that food can be unhealthy even if it contains no additives whatsoever. It can contain pesticide residues, unhealthy fats, loads of refined sugar and so on. Moreover, food flavorings are generally not regarded as food additives – typically they do not need to be listed on the label by name as they are considered to be a trade secret.
So, the best advice of all is to eat as much unprocessed and organic food as possible.