Any grocery store is riddled with them once you step foot in the ominous inner aisles. However, the majority of us have no idea of their existence simply because we believe their consumption has little or no impact on our well-being. And because no company in their right mind would advertise its presence on the front label (although, they are quick to point out their absence), the only way you may find out is by reading a food label. It looks like a foreign language, but I assure you there are three ingredients that are worth weeding through the fancy jargon to find: trans hydrogenated fats and oils, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and aspartame.
Trans-fats are oils that have gone through the process of adding hydrogen into the oil in order to extend the shelf life of food products. They are the easiest to spot and listed in ingredients as partially-hydrogenated fat or oil.
What is even more confusing to the consumer is that these commonly used food additives often go by pseudonyms. For example, MSG can be found in dozens of other ingredients and naturally found in others. According to the FDA, monosodium glutamate can be found in hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, soy extracts, protein isolates, and many more.
Aspartame is a common food additive used to reduce caloric and sugar intake. People quickly associate this ingredient with Diet Coke (or other zero calorie soft drinks) and with other foods labeled “sugar-free.” However, you may be surprised to learn its rampant use in foods that are “reduced sugar,” “no sugar added,” and even other foods that make no mention at all of sugar on the front label. I was shocked after an impulse purchase for my gum-loving children to discover a pack of Hubba Bubba bubble gum that contained aspartame (ingredients shown here), because the front of the package doesn’t say anything about sugar!
So, next time you spot any of these additives during your next venture to the grocery store, what should compel you to put it back on the shelf? The dangers of trans fat intake are becoming well known– even the FDA openly states the dangers of trans fat intake are directly linked to heart disease. And what about other aforementioned additives? A recent study measured the effects of combining these three additives in a daily diet regimen and concluded that this combination significantly altered glucose homeostasis (by promoting hyperglycemia), increased hepatic steatosis (fatty liver) and significantly altered visceral fat accumulation (abdominal cavity fat which is often linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other metabolic syndromes). More studies like this one are emerging every day as the long-term effects of food additives remain to be seen in our golden years and in our children.
And even if this is not enough to sway you to put back an additive-laden food back on the shelf, it is hopefully enough to, at least, make you think.