Monday, 23 July 2012

you are what you eat- do you know what you eat? Part 1

In keeping with my current obsession, which is ridding my home of pre-packaged, over-processed foods, I offer this post dedicated to unpacking some of the ingredients commonly found in many store-bought, processed foods. I expect that you will be horrified.

Many of these "ingredients" have alias, so wherever possible I have tried to include a list of other common names. 

Tartrazine, or FD&C yellow 5, E102 or C.I. 19140  - commonly used as a food colorant. Found in items such as those yummy addictive wasabi peas, but also found in ice cream and soft drinks, cereal, pre-made desserts, cosmetics, and pavements. Yes, you read that right. It is derived from coal tar. Yum. "Food" that contains this additive should be eaten by no one, but especially not by children. Known side-effects include "anxiety, migraines, asthma attacks, blurred vision, eczema, other skin rashes, thyroid cancer, Eosinophilia (increase in specific forms of white blood cells), clinical depression, ADHD or hyperactivity, hives, permanent DNA damage, heart palpitations, rhinitis, sleep disturbances/insomnia, general all-over weakness, hot flushes and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). In severe cases, anaphylactic-like reactions to tartrazine have also been reported. It is sometimes even fed to chickens to make their egg yolks more yellow and visually appealing.

 Studies have also revealed that consuming tartrazine also aggravates and increases the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (a painful wrist condition which is caused by the compression of the median nerve, which passes between the ligaments and bones in the wrist). The reason for this aggravation is because tartrazine interferes with the metabolism of Vitamin B6 in the body. By eliminating tartrazine from the diet, it is possible to reduce and even prevent the occurrence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome."

Sodium Benzoate: common preservative found in all kinds of food items. Reportedly, Sodium Benzoate itself is relatively safe, but has been reported to cause these side effects:

"In certain individuals, nausea and vomiting may occur. In rare cases, sodium benzoate can irritate existing stomach ulcers and cause mild hyperventilation, possibly leading to dizziness and lightheadedness, according to the Hazardous Substances Data Bank of the National Library of Medicine."

However, Sodium Benzoate is rarely used on its own. It is most often used in combination with sodium phenylacetate. The combination of the two chemicals is often named Ucephan and Ammonul. The "acetate" part of this word should give away its status as something that should not be eaten. When these two compounds are combined, trouble brews: " headache, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, appetite loss and mood changes, reports Confusion, muscle pain, fatigue, difficulty moving, shortness of breath, seizures and convulsions are also possible."
Additional problems with these two compounds include, "severe bruising, blood in the stools or urine, vomiting blood, difficulty breathing or changes in breathing patterns, drowsiness or unconsciousness. Additional rare side effects include muscle cramps, tremors, rash, restlessness and a feeling of tightness in the chest.... Additional severe side effects may result from the combination of sodium benzoate and sodium phenylacetate, including severe headache, fainting, blurred vision, chest pains, slowed heartbeat, unresponsiveness and slurred speech. Several unusual side effects are also possible, including a blue coloring of the lips, skin or fingernails; changes in the perception of colors, particularly yellow and blue; or a bulging soft spot developing on the head of an infant given the medication."

Sulphites, sometimes known as, and no I'm not kidding,
  • E 220, E 221, E 222, E 223, E 224, E 225, E 226, E 227, E 228 (European names)
  • Potassium bisulphite/metabisulphite
  • Sodium bisulphite/dithionite/metabisulphite/sulphite
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Sulphiting agents
  • Sulphurous acid
Sulphites rank in the top nine most common food allergens, and yet it is probably the most commonly used food preservative. Just about everything you buy that has been packaged will contain sulphites as a preservative.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include: 
  • Flushed face, hives or a rash, red and itchy skin
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat and tongue
  • Trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing
  • Anxiety, distress, faintness, paleness, sense of doom, weakness
  • Cramps, diarrhea, vomiting
  • A drop in blood pressure, rapid heart beat, loss of consciousness
 With exception to individuals with this sensitivity, or people who suffer from asthma, sulphites are considered safe for most people. 

Nitrates/nitrites, or cultured celery extract:  These should be avoided like the plague. They can be found in any, and all processed meats, including those that are marketed as "naturally cured" (these contain cultured celery extract, which is basically the same thing as nitrate). Nitrates and nitrites have been linked to, "an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes." Children and pregnant women in particular should avoid food containing nitrates, but basically the only people who should be consuming nitrates are those suffering from angina.

Monosodium glutamate, or
  • Glutamic acid (E 620)2,  Glutamate (E 620)
  • Monosodium glutamate (E 621)
  • Monopotassium glutamate (E 622)
  • Calcium glutamate (E 623)
  • Monoammonium glutamate (E 624)
  • Magnesium glutamate (E 625)
  • Natrium glutamate
  • Yeast extract
  • Anything “hydrolyzed”
  • Any “hydrolyzed protein”
  • Calcium caseinate,  Sodium caseinate
  • Yeast food, Yeast nutrient
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Gelatin
  • Textured protein
  • Soy protein, soy protein concentrate
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Whey protein, whey protein concentrate
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Anything “…protein”
  • Vetsin
  • Ajinomoto
There is far too much to say about MSG. Visit this comprehensive site for the low down.

here is a abridged version of adverse effects of MSG:

  • A burning sensation in the back of the neck, forearms and chest.
  • A numbness in the back of the neck, radiating to the arms and back.
  • A tingling, warmth and weakness in the face, temples, upper back, neck and arms.
  • Facial pressure or tightness.
  • Chest pain.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • A rapid heartbeat.
  • Bronchospasm (difficulty breathing) in MSG-intolerant people with asthma.
  • Drowsiness.

Basically if you are eating food in a package, you will be consuming these food additives. Does that mean you should just accept the fact that these additives will be consumed? Absolutely not. Avoid processed and packaged foods altogether. You will feel better, you will be healthy, you will probably lose weight, and you will avoid the nasty short and long term dangers of these food additives. 


Upcoming posts will offer suggestions about how to avoid these food additives by making stuff yourself. 

xo Jo