When it comes to sodium nitrite dangers we first need to clarify which compound we refer to because there are two closely related compounds; Sodium Nitrite (NaNO2) and Sodium Nitrate (NaNO3). Sodium nitrate is a natural compound found in leafy green vegetables. Food companies use both sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate in food to preserve color in many types of smoked fish and processed meats.
Sodium Nitrite Dangers
Sodium nitrite serves a twofold purpose in the food industry since it preserves the color of meat and fish and also prevents growth of the bacteria which causes botulism. Sodium Nitrite has an E number of E250.
While this compound prevents growth of the botulism bacteria, it can be toxic for mammals. Because of this, sodium nitrite sold as a food additive is dyed bright pink to prevent confusion. This has earned it the name “pink salt” in some circles.
Sodium nitrite dangers are well researched by scientists. Sodium nitrite is a known toxin. In the 1970s, the USDA tried to ban it but was vetoed by food companies because they had no alternative to preserve meat products. Why is it still used? Because this compound turns meats bright red. This makes old meat look fresh.
The major concerns is the formation of cancer causing N-nitrosamines when sodium nitrite reacts with amino acids in a warm, acidic environment like the stomach. These compounds enter the blood stream and damage several organs like the liver and pancreas. Sodium nitrite may also trigger migraines.
Research has also found a link between high processed meat consumption and colon cancer, possibly due to preservatives such as sodium nitrite.
Recent studies also indicate people who often eat meats cured with nitrites have increased risk of the COPD form of lung disease. Many years ago, I was requested to mix this compound with water to be used in sausages at my work. Inhaling the fumes almost caused my death because it closed my airway.
Because of sodium nitrite dangers, use of sodium nitrite is closely regulated in the US, and concentration is limited to 200 ppm.
Sodium Nitrate in Food
Sodium nitrate is found naturally in leafy green vegetables and has antimicrobial properties when used as a food preservative. Sodium nitrate shouldn’t be confused with the related compound, sodium nitrite.
This post is part of our Food Additives to Avoid series.
BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole) are preservatives found in cereal, vegetable oil, potato chips, chewing gum, frozen sausages, enriched rice, lard, shortening, candy and jello/jelly. Butylated hydroxytoluene in food is used mainly to prevent oil from going rancid, as is BHA and to keep foods from changing color or flavor. In fact, any processed food that contains some type of oil most likely contains one of these.
BHT has an E number of E321, BHA has an E number of E320. There are many BHA and BHT side effects… and both are linked to cancer.
Is butylated hydroxytoluene in food safe?
Butylated hydroxytoluene in food has been observed by the NTP to cause increased liver weight & abnormal cell behavior.
Is butylated hydroxyanisole safe?
BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program (NTP). Animal studies that exposed mice, hamsters and fish to BHA showed increased stomach cancer in mice and hamsters, and liver cancer in fish.
Sadly, BHA and BHT side effects mean they can also cause allergies, effect the brain, alter behavior, and may even cause cancer. BHA and BHT are oxidants which can form cancer-causing compounds in the human body.
Food producers can put these toxins in our foods as long as they remain within so-called ‘safe’ limits. But is there a safe limit? Is it okay to expose ourselves to ‘just a little bit’ of a substance that causes cancer? Or should we avoid it?
Every chemical has what is called a ‘material safety data sheet (or MSDS) which lists potential side effects. I have included these below so you can understand butylated hydroxyanisole side effects and those of BHT also.
This post is part of our Food additives to avoid series.
Why should we avoid sodium sulfite? What are the sodium sulfite hazards?
Sodium sulfite is a preservative with an E number of E221. E numbers are used to identify food additives. It is also known by these other names; Disodium Sulfite; Anhydrous Sodium Sulfite; Sulfurous acid, disodium salt.
Sodium Sulfite (also spelled ‘sulphite’) is used in wine, dried fruit, cut potatoes, beer, fruit jelly, syrup, maraschino cherries, soup, baked goods, canned and frozen fruits & veggies, sauce, spices, fruit juice, seafood, packaged lemon juice, soft drinks, tomato products and parmesan cheese.
According to FDA figures, around one percent of people are sensitive to sulfites. Mostly those who suffer from asthma which suggests a link between asthma and sulfites. People who are sulfite sensitive may experience headaches, shortness of breath, and rashes. In severe cases, sulfites can cause death by closing airways totally, leading to cardiac arrest.
Sulfites are also known to destroy the vitamin B1.
In 1986, the FDA banned use of this preservative on raw fruit and veggies after several deaths that were linked to it’s use. Sulfites are also found in packaged foods. If sulfite levels exceed 10ppm (FDA) and 10mg/kg (EU) then it must be listed on the label.
Sadly, just because a label doesn’t list sulfites doesn’t mean none are present because if foods contain products like a spice mix that contains sulfites, labels don’t need to list it on the label. This is why I added a list of products that contain sulfites. This means, for example, that a product containing dried fruit (which is treated with sulfur dioxide) need only state “dried fruit” on the ingredient list.
Sodium Sulfite Hazards – Possible Health Effects
According to the California Department of Public Healh:Some people are allergic to sulfites. Many asthmatics may have breathing problems within minutes of eating a food that contains sulfites and the reaction can be fatal.
Other hazards include: migraine headaches, hives, anaphylactic shock, and nausea. See this report And they’re putting this stuff in our food!
Are these sodium sulfite hazards enough to make you want to avoid the dangers of this additive? Want to find out about some more additives to avoid? See our series on Food Additives to Avoid series.
There are many food colors to avoid if we want to protect our health. These days, we eat too many processed foods that are full of food colors, and health depends on not having too many toxins in our body. Sadly, many food colors are toxic, even natural food colors can be toxic. Because of this, food colors and health do not go hand in hand.
But why mention this on a weight loss blog? Because when there are toxins in our system we can’t dispose of, they get stored… IN FAT CELLS. Our body creates fat cells to store these toxins in order to protect us. If you want to lose weight you need to reduce the amount of toxins you consume in food colors, and health will then improve. A good way to help detox your body is by drinking at least 8 glasses (3 pints or 2 liters) of water per day.
Recent research shows that food colors found in soda, fruit juice and even salad dressings can cause behavior issues in children and even lower their IQ. Other food colors are linked to cancer in animal studies. Watch out for these food colors to avoid:
Food Colors to Avoid:
But why are these food colors to avoid? What makes these food colors and health clash?
E102, E110, E127 and E133 may also enable genetic sharing of the cancer through chromosome damage. E127 and E133 may also interfere with brain nerve transmission and damage nerve cells.
Even some ‘natural’ food colors are unsafe.
E160b (Annatto) causes irritability, sleeplessness, rest disturbance, stomach ache, headaches, allergies, asthma, rashes, hyperactivity, atrial fibrulation, hives and anaphylactic shock.
A 1978 study of 61 patients with chronic hives (urticaria) and/or angioedema (a swelling similar to hives but occurs under the skin rather than on). Each patient was given a dose equal to the amount in 25 grams (0.88 oz) of butter and 26% of patients had a reaction within four hours.
When it comes to children, trials have shown that cutting these out of their diets results in less arguments, aggression and less nightmares. Even children noticed the difference.
Feel free to print out the image on this page to use as a shopping guide but please note to look for just the numbers as packets do not always include the ‘E’ before the number
This post is part of our Food Additives to Avoid series.
Saturated fat vs trans fat – what’s the big deal? To understand you need to know what these fats are and their health effects.
Saturated fat vs trans fat
Trans fat definition. – What is trans fat? Trans fat is the common name for unsaturated fat with trans-isomer (E-isomer) fatty acid(s). Trans fats can be mono or poly unsaturated, but never saturated. Trans fats exist in nature, but the trans fats in this post are those made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil via hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is used to turn liquid oils into a solid for products like margarine and shortening. Doctors don’t know why, but adding hydrogen to oil increases cholesterol levels more than other types of fats. Natural trans fat are mostly good fats. But trans fats made by hydrogenation behave have the same effect as saturated fats and cause the same health issues, namely higher blood cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in our blood. Our body needs it but having too much makes us more likely to suffer heart disease. When you have high cholesterol, you may get fatty plaque deposits in your blood vessels (called Atherosclerosis). These build up over time until it becomes hard for blood to flow. Your heart may not get as much oxygen rich blood as it needs and this may cause a heart attack. If this happens in your brain it can cause a stroke.
What is saturated fat? – Saturated fats are mainly animal fats from meat, milk, milk products and eggs. There are also a couple of plant sources, namely coconut and some nuts (eg. cashews). But it’s animal fats that are bad for us because plant sources don’t contain cholesterol. Cholesterol is unique to animal fat.
When it comes to heart health, Saturated fats increase LDL levels, but trans fat is double trouble because it:
- Raises your “bad” (LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol
- Lowers your “good” (HDL – High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol.
Another crucial thing to know in the saturated fat vs trans fat question are the roles of LDL and HDL. LDL deposits fatty plaque on artery walls which can lead to a fatal blockage. HDL attracts cholesterol to it and transports it to the liver to be disposed of. In this way, HDL lowers the levels of cholesterol in your blood. Good ways to increase HDL levels are exercise and having plenty of omega 3 from fish, nuts, avocado, flax seeds, chia seeds etc
As you can see, if your HDL levels are low you will have a higher LDL levels which increases your risk of heart disease. This is what makes the saturated fat vs trans fat issue so important. Also, trans fats have been linked to cancer.
Many countries list trans fat content on nutrition labels so always be sure to check. Be careful though, in the U.S. and some other countries if food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serve, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat. You might think that’s a small amount of trans fat, but if you eat more than one serve of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, you will consume too much.
The fact is… NO amount of trans fat is healthy. According to a Wake Forest Uni study, trans fat also causes higher levels of abdominal fat.
How do you know whether food contains trans fat? If it says “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oil. That means trans fat. Trans fats are in many foods, such as crackers, cookies, cakes, fried foods like doughnuts and french fries. Shortenings and some margarines can be high in trans fat.
‘Saturated fat vs trans fat’ is part of our food additives to avoid series.