If you have ever looked at the nutrition label of a processed food item and have been met with confusion, then you are not alone. Many processed foods today contain a multitude of additives, which can be anything from emulsifiers and preservatives to artificial colors and flavoring, under the guise of unfamiliar words. Potassium metabisulfite, anyone?
Although many additives, such as preservatives, help to ensure the safety and shelf stability of foods and aid in inhibiting the growth of bacteria, they do also have their downside. According to The Internation Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, artificial additives have been linked to everything from asthma to cancer. A number of additives can even cause weight gain over time.
Read ahead if you are interested in learning more about common additives found in many processed foods. From preservatives that may cause gradual weight gain to a pickling agent that suppresses the body’s natural satiety hormone, here are 5 additives that could hinder weight loss goals. Plus, read up on the 25 Food Myths Preventing You From Losing Weight.
As explained by Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of The Family Immunity Cookbook, propionate is a preservative used to inhibit mold from growing in foods such as baked goods, breads, and cheeses. According to a study in Science, conducted using humans and rodents, it was found that mice’s chronic exposure to a dose of propionate caused gradual weight gain.
“However, when it comes to food, demonizing food additives that help minimize foodborne illness is questionable and makes us become afraid of food,” Amidor advised, “Certainly more research is needed to see what happens to humans who consume foods with this additive chronically, as most people do not.” Because of this, Amidor suggests eating a variety of different types of foods and to know the importance of moderating portions. Here are 18 Easy Ways to Control Your Portion Sizes.
Laura Gilstrap RD, LD/N, Owner of LG Nutrition LLC, shares that sodium benzoate, the sodium salt of benzoic acid, is a highly studied additive that may have adverse reactions to our health. “It works by suppressing a hormone called leptin, the body’s natural satiety hormone,” said Gilstrap. This commonly used preservative is often found in foods such as soda, salad dressing, and fruit juices, and is also used as a pickling agent.
Gilstrap explains that evaporated cane juice is another food additive that has been linked through scientific studies to obesity, weight gain, and diabetes. This additive may be found wherever sweetener is used, such as in coffee, teas, and baked goods. “[This] sugar substitute is just as dangerous as sugar,” says Gilstrap, “which means it can still affect your waistline and promote inflammation.” According to Cleveland Clinic research, inflammation in the body has been connected to almost every major disease, including heart disease and cancer.
“As a culture, we have been taught to limit sugary and fatty foods if we want to lose weight,” says Gilstrap, “Sometimes, however, the problem isn’t quantity, it’s the quality of our food.” Because of this, Gilstrap advises being on the lookout for highly processed foods that may still try to brand themselves as “healthy”. “Highly processed foods, even those labeled as “healthy,” can contain additives that may prevent weight loss,” she adds.
Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, and Forbes Health board member, shares that an additive, known as sucralose, may also hinder weight loss and fuel weight gain. “Sucralose is a non-nutritive sweetener that’s used to sweeten foods and drinks, like diet sodas, in a zero-calorie manner,” explains Newgent, “A recent study from JAMA Network, found that when compared to sugar, intake of sucralose may basically fool the brain and increase appetite in females and people with obesity.”
However, Newgent points out that studies conducted previously have shown that non-nutritive sweeteners may actually aid in weight loss, so you may want to keep an eye out for future research on this one. In the meantime, Newgent suggests eating minimally processed, whole foods. “One of the easiest ways to reduce food additives from your diet is to aim to eat mostly fresh, wholesome, unprocessed or minimally processed foods and mostly plants,” Newgent says, “In other words, keep it real.”
Bisphenol A, also known as BPA. is a common additive that has popularly been highlighted in the public forum for years. Lon Ben-Asher, MS, RD, LD/N, Nutritionist at Pritikin Longevity Center, shares that this additive can have adverse effects on our health. “There are various studies that suggest bisphenol A (BPA), which is found in the lining of canned foods and bottled beverages, may have an association to increased risk of obesity due to hormonal changes,” Ben-Asher explains. If you would like to limit your intake of BPA, moderate how many canned foods you consume or be on the lookout for “BPA-free” brands, such as Whole Foods’ 365 brand, Amy’s, Muir Glen, and Tyson.