Many people trust that food additives like preservatives are safe to consume. However, there are many health problems that could arise from consuming food laced with preservatives. From asthma and allergies to cancer and reproductive difficulties, the effects of preservatives could be far-reaching. Dr. Bomi Joseph of Peak Health Center names some of the worst preservatives in our food and explains some of their damaging effects.
Sodium benzoate is commonly found in sodas, pickles, and salsa. In an acidic product, it lengthens shelf life and preserves freshness. The problem with sodium benzoate is that it releases a carcinogenic hydrocarbon gas called benzene when it is mixed with acidic preparations, particularly vitamin C or ascorbic acid.
Benzene is found in smog and other air pollution. It is a greenhouse gas which disturbs the natural balance of the environment. It is responsible for causing leukemia and other cancers. While some scientists claim that the levels of benzene which are released through the preservative use of sodium benzoate are not clinically significant, it is best to avoid this preservative altogether.
Sodium nitrate is found in preserved meats like hot dogs, bacon, jerky, and deli meats. This chemical gives a red color to the meat. Nitrates are widely used, but their safety is questionable.
Sodium nitrate damages blood vessels, leading to hardening of the arteries and heart disease. Nitrates can also damage the body’s metabolic system, leading to diabetes. It is best to avoid processed meats in your diet, or if you must have them, to use varieties that are uncured and free of nitrates.
BHA and BHT
These chemical preservatives are commonly used in cereal packaging, fast food, drink mixes, snack foods, processed potatoes, and shortening. BHA or butylated hydroxyanisole prevents fats from going rancid. It also defoams yeast. BHT or butylated hydroxytoluene is also a fat stabilizer. It is used to retain flavor, color, and smell.
According to the National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Health, BHA can be considered a human carcinogen. The European Commission has also labeled it a possible endocrine disruptor. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are particularly damaging because they can interfere with healthy human reproduction.
BHT has fewer carcinogenic warnings, but it is considered an endocrine disruptor as well. It could impact organs like the thyroid, kidney, liver, and lungs.
Sulfites are often found in wines and dried fruits. Sometimes these chemicals are naturally occurring, but they are often supplemented for preservative use. The damaging aspect of sulfites is that some people are allergic to them. Sulfite allergies often develop in a person’s forties or fifties. Sulfite allergies are immediate and severe and can cause symptoms like wheezing, hives, flushing, and difficulty breathing. However far more people are intolerant to sulfites. The symptoms from intolerance take longer to manifest and people have trouble associating them with the cause. If you have had bloating, headaches (including migraines), wheezing and runny nose, general malaise, stomachaches, or irritable bowels, chances are you have had a sulfite intolerance. It is possible to find wines and dried fruits which do not contain sulfites.
Parabens are used in foods, hair care, and skincare products. They are antifungal preservatives that preserve freshness in foods and beauty products. Scientists have found that parabens are present in many patients with breast cancer. In the lab, scientists treated breast cancer cells with heregulin, a natural hormone that produces breast growth, and parabens. Parabens caused breast cancer cells to grow at a faster rate than the heregulin alone.
Parabens can also function as endocrine disruptors. Dr. Bomi Joseph says it is best to avoid them not only in foods, but in personal care products as well.Always Read the Label
Foods with preservatives are likely to be empty calories like sodas, cakes, cookies, and chips. Many of these foods also have a great deal of added fat, including damaging trans fats. Foods with nitrates include hot dogs and bacon. For your health, it is best to avoid these foods altogether and to create your diet from nutritious, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, and lean meats. Avoiding preservatives is easy when you base your diet on healthy principles.
Dr. Bomi Joseph reminds health-conscious people to focus on products that nature delivers, and always read the label if it isn’t from nature, whether you are purchasing foods or skincare products. It is vital to take responsibility for your own health. “You cannot outsource health,” says Dr. Bomi Joseph