Flavor-enhancing and lab-manufactured chemicals called as food additives are mainly used to enhance the appearance and flavor of food and prolong shelf life. Manufacturers often include food additives into our foods primarily for processing, packaging, and storage.
According to statistics, a typical American household spends about 90 percent of its food budget on processed foods, which exposes them to numerous artificial food additives, most of which have serious adverse health consequences. Here are two major food ingredients and additives, which are best avoided.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
High fructose corn syrup, a highly-refined artificial sweetener found in almost all processed foods, is considered as the main source of calories in the US. It is the most commonly consumed sugar in the US today. HFCS increases the calories, leading to weight gain faster than any other ingredient.
HFCS is also known to increase the LDL cholesterol levels, which is bad for your health and can cause cardiac problems. It is also thought to be responsible for the development of diabetes and tissue damage. It is commonly found in most processed foods, bread, candy, flavored yogurts, salad dressings, canned vegetables, and cereals.
Health Effects Of HFCS
In a study conducted in 2015, researchers established a close link between dietary fructose intake and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).1 Reinforcing this finding was another 2016 study, which found that a high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is a major risk factor for the development of NAFLD.2
The study also observed that fructose consumption may increase the risk of diabetes as it supports insulin resistance because the body does not require insulin to process fructose. It also found that HFCS can cause the creation of free radicals in the body.
Identifying HFCS In The Ingredients
Over the last few years, the companies that manufacture HFCS have appealed to the FDA to rename it as the innocent-sounding “corn sugar.” This move was a marketing strategy to mislead the consumers, who are becoming aware of the dangers of HFCS. So, the labels on most products may not display the name as high-fructose corn syrup or HFCS. Instead, it may be labeled as one of the names below, which is what all consumers must look for.3
- Corn sugar
- Corn syrup
- Maize syrup
- Agave nectar
- Cane juice
- Corn syrup solids
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Invert sugar
- Tapioca syrup
- Glucose/fructose syrup
- Dahlia syrup
- Crystalline glucose
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG, E621)
MSG, a salt form of the glutamate amino acid, is mainly used as a flavor enhancer. It is found naturally in small quantities in mushrooms, cheeses, and tomatoes. But, artificially manufactured MSG is found in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, frozen dinners, lunch meats and many restaurant foods. MSG is often a common ingredient in many canned food and is stereotypically associated with food in Chinese restaurants.
It has been tested to cause side-effects including headache and dizziness. MSG is known as an excitotoxin, a substance which overexcites cells to the point of damage or death. A research-confirmed link has been established between MSG and problems in brain development when newborn infants are exposed to it.4
Studies have shown that regular consumption of MSG may result in adverse side-effects such as disorientation, fatigue, headaches, depression, eye damage, and obesity.5 MSG affects the neurological pathways of the brain and makes you eat more, resulting in weight gain.6
However, the exact cause of these symptoms is not known and more studies are being conducted to evaluate the health effects of MSG. People who experience discomfort after consuming MSG may have an MSG allergy and must avoid it.
Health Effects Of MSG
- Facial pressure or tightness
- Numbness, tingling or burning in the face, neck
- Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations)
- Chest pain
Identifying MSG In The Ingredients
The only way to ascertain if MSG is included in the foods that you buy is to read the labels thoroughly. But, identifying MSG in the long list of ingredients may not be so easy, especially when it goes by several aliases. Here are the other common names that indicate the presence of MSG.7
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
- Yeast extract
- Malted barley
- Rice syrup or brown rice syrup
- Monosodium salt
- Monosodium glutamate monohydrate
- Monosodium L-glutamate monohydrate
- MSG monohydrate
- Sodium glutamate monohydrate
- L-Glutamic acid
- Monosodium salt
Avoiding Foods That Contain HFCS And MSG
- Bakery Products: Processed snacks, cakes, and desserts.
- Meat Products: Pre-marinated or “seasoned” meats.
- Dairy Products: Some yogurt brands and cheese products, especially those marketed to kids, contain added sugar and food coloring agents.
|↑1||Basaranoglu, Metin, Gokcen Basaranoglu, and Elisabetta Bugianesi. “Carbohydrate intake and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: fructose as a weapon of mass destruction.” Hepatobiliary surgery and nutrition 4, no. 2 (2015): 109.|
|↑2||Softic, Samir, David E. Cohen, and C. Ronald Kahn. “Role of dietary fructose and hepatic de novo lipogenesis in fatty liver disease.” Digestive diseases and sciences 61, no. 5 (2016): 1282-1293.|
|↑3||Hidden in Plain Sight. Sugar Science. University of California San Francisco.|
|↑4||Foran, Lindsey, Kaitlyn Blackburn, and Randy J. Kulesza. “Auditory hindbrain atrophy and anomalous calcium binding protein expression after neonatal exposure to monosodium glutamate.” Neuroscience 344 (2017): 406-417.|
|↑5||Xiong, Jennifer S., Debbie Branigan, and Minghua Li. “Deciphering the MSG controversy.” International journal of clinical and experimental medicine 2, no. 4 (2009): 329.|
|↑6||Insawang, Tonkla, Carlo Selmi, Ubon Cha’on, Supattra Pethlert, Puangrat Yongvanit, Premjai Areejitranusorn, Patcharee Boonsiri et al. “Monosodium glutamate (MSG) intake is associated with the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in a rural Thai population.” Nutrition & metabolism 9, no. 1 (2012): 50.|
|↑7||Monosodium glutamate. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|