Nutrition and DietSide effects of food additives

Side effects of food additives

What are the health effects of additives: we reveal to you whether or not food additives actually cause side or adverse effects.

Despite the fact that we find them every day in most of the food products and beverages that we consume, the truth is that food additives continue to be a matter of concern for most consumers today, especially in relation to whether they really are or not harmful to health, and above all, what are its side effects.

As we have already explained to you on several occasions, food additives are substances or compounds that are added to food and beverages in an industrial way at the time they are made. Depending on their function there are different types of food additives: while some improve the taste, appearance or texture of the food, others allow to extend the period of consumption.

In fact, although today we can –and must- talk about industrial additives, did you know that humans have used natural additives for centuries? And it is that we learned a long time ago to preserve meat and fish with salting and smoking techniques, or to improve the preservation of food obtained during harvest. From a historical point of view, while the Egyptians used flavorings and colorants in order to improve some foods, the Romans already used potassium nitrate (brine), spices or certain natural colorants.

However, as we see, the real concern would come from the use of those additives that are not natural.

Do food additives cause side effects?

The truth is that very rarely food additives cause or cause certain allergic reactions.  Although the most common and common in this sense are the following:

  • Sulfites: can cause problems in people who are sensitive to so-called sulfating agents. They are used to control the proliferation of microbes in fermented beverages. In asthmatic and sensitive people, sulfites can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
  • Monosodium glutamate: composed of sodium and glutamic acid, it is used as a flavor enhancer in prepared meals, and especially in Chinese food. Although it is believed that it can cause a headache and a tingling sensation in the body (a condition traditionally known as the Chinese restaurant syndrome), the truth is that some scientific studies have observed that this relationship would not exist.
  • Aspartame: it is a well-known sweetener commonly used in diet products. It is believed that it could cause adverse effects similar to monosodium glutamate, but these have not been proven by scientific studies.
  •  Certain colorants: such as carmine (E 120 or red cochineal) or atrazine (E 102), which could cause allergic reactions in sensitive people, such as nasal congestion, hives and skin rashes.

As we can see, the truth is that most of the side effects caused by food additives, are mainly due either to a greater sensitivity that the person may have towards them (allergic and related adverse reactions), or by an excessive consumption of food or food products with the presence of certain additives. Such is the case of excessive consumption of sugar-free gum and its sorbitol content, which could cause diarrhea.

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