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5 Terrifying chemicals in your food

Are you happy with what you’ve eaten today? Was it a good balance of protein, carbs and vitamins? Did you throw a few carcinogens in there too? The answer is probably, yes. If you’ve eaten anything that wasn’t hand-produced from your own garden, then chances are that you’ve ingested some kind of sinister chemical. Join us for a trip down the nutritional rabbit-hole…

It’s funny that some people still regard artificial sweeteners as a healthy choice when we know so much about the effects of them. Only last month in the UK, a government-funded Healthy Body provoked outrage by giving out leaflets to every school child suggesting that they make the “healthy swap” from sugary drinks to diet versions. They neglected to mention the 92 identified possible outcomes of diet soda consumption – everything from ADD to blindness. That’s all thanks to the chemical aspartame, which is toxic in large quantities. Not such a smart choice.

Another sweetener that’s had enough bad press to last it several lifetimes, High Fructose Corn Syrup tends to get the blame for the current obesity crisis, thanks to its nutritionally empty way of making food look shiny and appealing. Of course, it’s not quite nutritionally empty – it has plenty of sugar in it. In fact, it’s 76% sugar (the rest is water), and it’s a cheap alternative to sucrose, leading to a 25% increase in sugar consumption in the US between 1975 and 2000. The side effects? Not just obesity, but diabetes, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and more we may not yet know about!

Like HCFS, Trans-fat may have some explaining to do when it comes to obesity statistics. It attacks good cholesterol and increases the bad cholesterol, leading to an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Trans-fat doesn’t occur naturally very often, but is made because it’s useful for deep-frying and lasts longer than other fats before going bad. But its days may be numbered, with a number of countries seeking to ban or regulate it. For example, the Canadian government has been working with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada since 2006 to bring the use of trans-fats under control.

Often associated with Chinese food, Monosodium Glutamate is also associated with less tasty things – namely, depression, hyperactivity and obesity (again). It’s an excitotoxin, the kind of toxin that makes cells overexcited, to the point of damaging them. It stops the brain telling the Healthy Body that a person is full, hence the obesity link, and is dangerous in high quantities.

Potassium Bromate
A less well-known one to finish with, and it’s the not-so-catchily named Potassium Bromate, a chemical linked to cancers in animals. It’s found in bread, as it’s an oxidizing agent used to speed up the bread-making process. During that process, it changes to Potassium Bromide, which is entirely harmless, and so the amounts of the toxin should be negligible. But are they? A mistake in quantities or cooking time can lead to dangerous levels of this category 2B carcinogen being present in bread, and the long-term effects of that are not yet known. The additive has been banned in many places, including the E.U. and China but is still available in places like the U.S. – look out for “bromated flour” on the ingredient list to ensure you steer clear!


Until next time,

Peace, love, and vitamin C!


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