Organic. Non-GMO. Farm raised. Cage free. These days, food labels have no bounds. Companies want to provide peace of mind to their consumers. Consumers want to know that they’re buying a product that won’t kill them or give them cancer. Yet, modern food manufacturing techniques still pump your food full of hormones and chemicals. They put your health at risk in the name of increasing profits. Just how hazardous are these chemicals in our food? A discussion about a few of the most widely used “food enhancers” sheds much needed light on the subject.
Thought to be a safe alternative to saturated fats, recent research shows that trans fats are worse for you. Companies once marketed them as “heart-healthy.” These fats appear in an alarming amount of processed foods. Other common names to look for include “partially hydrogenated” or “fractionated” fats. The higher up on the list of ingredients, the higher the concentration of fats.
Studies demonstrate a link between trans fats and premature deaths. They actually increase your risk of heart disease, as well. They decrease your “good” cholesterol and promote the “bad.” Avoid trans fats and you avoid an increased risk for heart attacks and other cardiac issues.
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
One of the hottest topics of debate in recent years, modifying the genetics of crops has become a staple of food manufacturing in the 21st century. With GMOs, scientists and farmers change the DNA of produce to promote specific characteristics. Herbicide and insecticide resistant plants are the most common properties linked to this technique. It is most prevalent with those who grow soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola. Other popular characteristics possible with GMOs include bananas that produce human vaccines, livestock and fish that mature more quickly, and trees that yield fruit earlier.
These products can provide enormous benefits. Risks exist in equal measure. Transference of modified properties into humans poses serious health risks. Many experts have cited a sharp increase in the number of food allergies because of the use of GMOs. Antibiotic-resistant ailments are also linked to modified foods.
Research suggests that GMOs are potentially damaging to human beings and the world at large. They are controversial, but these compounds are not going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
Food manufacturers use BHT as a preservation agent. This common additive acts as an antioxidant in food and cosmetics. Sounds great, right? Everyone likes the sound of an antioxidant. Unfortunately, it is also a main ingredient in jet fuel, rubber petroleum products, and embalming fluid. In tests, BHT is a carcinogenic compound. It also contributes to liver and kidney damage, difficulty sleeping, and problems with appetite. Despite this, processed foods rely on this chemical to increase profits. Their logic states that the longer a product can stay on the shelf without going rancid, the more likely it can sell.
MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
Long a stereotypical staple of Chinese takeout, monosodium glutamate’s use extends far beyond your favorite cheap restaurant. As a flavor enhancer, you find MSG in all types of processed foods. Studies associate this chemical with headaches and dizziness. Swelling of cells in your brain contributes to the discomfort you experience after eating too many MSG-containing foods. Glutamate is also a naturally occurring neurotransmitter required for many brain processes. A correlation exists between increased release of this chemical and the development of neurological disorders.
rBGH and rBST (Synthetic Growth Hormone)
Use of synthetic growth hormones runs rampant through the food industry. Companies specializing in meat, poultry, and dairy use rBGH and rBST to increase the yield of their products. Milk and dairy producers are the largest culprits. These hormones, banned in countries across the globe, boost milk production in cows. Both rBGH and rBST are still legal in the United States. This is despite their links to infertility and a wide variety of cancers. To add a touch of irony, the presence of these compounds in your milk causes weakened bone and muscle growth.
Significant research indicates that chemicals added to your food are hazardous to your health. While not everything causes cancer or leads to organ failure, the prolonged use of these compounds can wreak havoc on both the body and the environment. As long as the United States allows them to remain legal, there is little incentive for companies to stop selling modified foods. What are the long-term effects on your health and your world? Only the future can tell.