Americans spend about 90 percent of their food budget on processed foods, which contain a staggering number of artificial food additives, preservatives, colors and flavor enhancers.
That your health suffers as a consequence of this assault should come as no surprise.
To review each of the mere dozen mentioned here could fill several books, and would still only be the tip of the iceberg.
As you may already know, I wrote an entire book just on artificial sweeteners, called Sweet Deception.
However, when it comes to food additives, perhaps one of the most important aspects is the health ramifications they have on your children.
Research confirms what many parents already know
The issue of whether or not food additives such as artificial colors contribute to behavioral problems in children has been disputed for many years.
Fortunately, as evidence continues to mount this may soon change.
One carefully designed randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal The Lancet may be what finally shifted the tide.
It concluded that a variety of common food dyes, and the preservative sodium benzoate – found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings – do cause some children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible.
The seven ingredients tested in the study included:
- Sodium benzoate (E211)
- Sunset yellow (E110)
- Quinoline yellow (E104)
- Carmoisine (E122)
- Tartrazine (E102)
- Ponceau 4R (E124)
- Allura red AC (E129)
The results of that study prompted the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue an immediate advisory to parents, warning them to limit their children’s intake of additives if they notice an effect on behavior.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the U.S. did not issue any similar warnings.
The worst behavioral responses from the additives were seen in the three-year-olds, compared to the older children in the study. But even within each age group, some children responded very strongly, and others not at all, indicating there are individual differences in how well your body can tolerate the assault of artificial additives. One theory is that the additives may trigger a release of histamines in certain sensitive kids.
Still, I believe that food additives such as preservatives, sweeteners and colorings should be avoided as much as possible, regardless of whether they have a marked effect or not as they clearly have no redeeming nutritional value, and can carry major long-term health risks.
Food dyes could be damaging kid’s brains
Another article, published in the British magazine The Independent on April 5 2008, reported that artificial food colors (but not the preservative sodium benzoate) were set to be removed from hundreds of products in the UK because the results of the study mentioned above also indicate that the E-numbers do as much damage to children’s brains as lead in gasoline, resulting in a significant reduction in IQ.
The lead author, Professor Stevenson, and his three colleagues have stated:
“The position in relation to AFCs [Artificial Food Colors] is analogous to the state of knowledge about lead and IQ that was being evaluated in the early 1980s … Needleman [a researcher] found the difference in IQ between high and low lead groups was 5.5 IQ points … This is very close to the sizes obtained in our study of food additives.”
Officials at the British FSA advised the food industry to voluntarily remove the six food dyes named in the study by the end of 2009, and replace them with natural alternatives if possible.
True to form, the food industry claims the additives are used in a mere “handful” of products, but the website ActionOnAdditives.com has already identified more than 1,000 food products that contain them – most of which are targeted at children.
Banned food additives still in children’s medicines
Another thing you need to be aware of, as a parent, is that when an ingredient is banned for use in food, it is not automatically banned for use in other areas such as medicine.
According to an expose’ by the British Food Commission last year, food additives that have already been banned for use in food and beverages are still used in a majority of pediatric over-the-counter medicines.
Their survey found that ALL BUT ONE medicine out of 41 contained an additive that had been banned.
The additives found in these drugs included:
- Synthetic azo dyes
- Maltitol and sorbitol
- Benzoate and sulphite preservatives
The justification for using these toxic compounds is what you’d typically expect from an over-the-counter pharmaceutical trade group: Unlike foods, additives in medicines are used in small quantities and are only taken for a short time.
Does that make you feel any better?
This is just one more reason why it’s so important to question what your doctor or any other health professional may prescribe or recommend for your child, no matter what side of the counter it comes from, as many pediatric drugs can certainly be harmful, if not downright toxic to your child’s health.
So what about sugar and salt?
White sugar is named in the list above but I would have to disagree and identify high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as far more problematic than white cane sugar. HFCS is the number one source of calories in the U.S. and causes far more damage than white sugar.
Salt is another challenge, as it can and is a health food for many, but it needs to be the right type of salt. Nearly all commercial salt is highly processed and heated to very high temperatures and has many additives added, which are also potentially toxic. So it would be wise to avoid processed foods with conventional salt added.
However, unprocessed salts, like unrefined sea salts and Himalayan salt can be an important part of a healthy diet. Personally, it is uncommon for a day to go by in which I don’t use Himalayan salt. I am a protein nutritional type and tend to do better with high quality salt.
New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mercola graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1982. And while osteopaths or D.O.s are licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery just like medical doctors (M.D.s), they bring something extra to the practice of medicine.
Osteopathic physicians practice a "whole person" approach to medicine, treating the entire person — rather than just the symptoms. Focusing on preventive health care, D.O.s help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but help prevent it too.
Dr. Mercola is passionate about natural medicine and strongly believes that the current medical system is largely manipulated and controlled by large corporations whose primary focus is profit. His website, Mercola.com, which started as a small hobby interest in 1997, has now grown to today’s number one natural health website educating and empowering millions to take back the control over their own health.
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