It’s no fun reading every ingredient in your food but if you don’t, you let the bad guys win. Wanted for their crimes against your health and wellness, here are the five most unwanted ingredients.
1. Aspertame. Really, any artificial sweetener (say, acesulfame potassium, sucralose or saccharin) makes it on this list but let’s focus on, arguably, the leader of the pack. There’s a long list of health risks associated with this sugar substitute (read While Science Sleeps for all the frightening details) but perhaps the most compelling is that it’s a neurotoxin that can leave your blood stream and go to work attacking your brain cells. Before you use your desire to be thin as justification; studies also show that this sweet-toxin actually stimulates your appetite and leads to weight gain. Check your labels because this suspect ingredient isn’t just in your diet treats. Look for it in your protein powder, salad dressing, toothpaste, yogurt, cereals and sauces.
2. Aluminum. You’ve given up on traditional antiperspirant and traded in your granny’s old pots and pans so you’re safe from the health risks presented by aluminum exposure. Not so fast — aluminum could be in your food – meaning you aren’t just exposed to it, you’re ingesting this heavy metal that has been linked to Alzheimer’s. It’s used in many processed cheeses, pickles, medications (like antacids and buffered acetaminophen) and baby formula; clearly listed in the ingredients. But, it can also be sneaky, hiding in ingredient lists as aluminized baking powder or self-rising flour.
3. BHA If you feel like you know this chemical felon, you do – it made headlines when it was banned for use in baby bottles. It’s also banned in Canada as a food preservative (our American friends should be on the lookout for it in processed foods). The reason it’s still on our list is because you need to keep an eye out for it (and its partner in crime, BHT) in your cosmetic’s ingredient list – especially lipsticks. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) can mess with your hormones, your brain, your central nervous system and may also cause cancer – so steer clear of these outlaws.
4. Sodium & Potassium Benzoate. Commonly found in sodas, salad dressing, jams, pickles and condiments, this dangerous duo pose a threat because they can produce a compound called benzene – a known carcinogen that has also been linked to hyperactivity. While the powers that be say it’s generally presumed safe to consume benzoate, there’s no easy way to detect if benzene is present so we’re flagging this one as armed and dangerous.
5. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Notorious for its insidious ability to worm its way into so many ingredient lists, this cheap sugar substitute has been linked to some pretty scary stuff. Firstly, it’s the poster ingredient for obesitybecause it metabolizes directly into fat. Secondly, it damages the liver much like alcohol does by creating a ‘fatty liver’, which can be sluggish at processing toxins and hormones naturally produced and present in your body. Plus, much of the world’s supply of high fructose corn syrup is genetically modified (GMO), which leads to a whole new list of health concerns. Don’t get us started.
Sadly this list could go on and on. But cleaning up crimes against our health happens one offender at a time. Besides, once you lock away these 5 most unwanted, you’ll find the rest of their crew a little more scarce.