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What's the Deal with Food Additives?

By Sara Butler

You hear a lot about food additives in the news, but what are they -- and how can they impact your health? Finding out more about food additives is important to you and your family’s health, so here’s what you need to know about food additives, what they do, and if they pose a threat to your continued health and wellness.

What Are They?

Food additives are chemicals. They’re added to foods to enhance their flavor, texture, color, or simply to keep them fresher for longer. They can be something as simple as a food coloring to something as complex as a food preservative.

Food additives are often listed on the nutrition label, often in descending order by weight with other ingredients. That means the more there is of something in the food, the higher it will be listed on the ingredients list. You may find additives names completely spelled out or you may only see them represented by a code or a number.

Safety Testing

Food additives are tested to ensure their safety in humans and require testing before they are approved. If there’s doubt about the safety of an additive, it’s simply not approved. The only caveat is that the long-term impact of eating preservatives in combination with other substances currently isn’t known.

Food Additive Effects

There are some people who are sensitive to food additives, causing gastrointestinal issues or skin problems as a result. This doesn’t mean all food additives need to cut from the diet. Remember, foods are essentially made up of natural chemicals and food additives can’t be automatically assumed to be less safe than natural chemicals found in foods.

If you have a sensitivity to a food additive, it’s likely that you’re also sensitive to naturally occurring chemicals in foods such as shellfish and nuts.

Types of Additives

There are several different types of food additives that are found in food:

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Anti-caking agents
  • Emulsifiers
  • Colors
  • Humectants
  • Food acids
  • Antioxidants
  • Flavors
  • Mineral salt
  • Thickeners
  • Stabilizers
  • Gelling agents
  • Foaming agents
  • Preservatives
  • Bulking agents
  • Raising agents

As with anything you eat, it’s important to know what is in your food. Chances are, foods with a long list of additives are also highly processed foods, which should be restricted in a healthy diet anyway. If you think you may be having a reaction to a food additive, consult with a medical professional.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Aurora, Colo.

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