The Problem with Food Additives ...
What, asks Margaret Moss, do they add to my food?
We can have problems with foods for various reasons ...
The food itself
Food may be prepared by someone who does not know how to make the food safe. Eggs need enough cooking to kill off salmonella. Cashew nuts should be cooked briefly, to destroy a harmful chemical. Kidney beans should be thoroughly boiled, to deal with the lectin in them. A slow cooker is not adequate. Green potatoes should be thrown away, because of the solanine in them. The end of a mango near the stalk should be cut off and thrown away. Cassava is an important food in parts of the world where other food crops sometimes fail. It is soaked for a long time in a stream, and thoroughly boiled, without a lid, as this removes much of the cyanide.
We may make IgE antibodies to egg protein, making us allergic to it. The sugars in milk, sugar cane, sugar beet and fruit may damage our arteries. The sugar in sugar cane, sugar beet and fruit may encourage the growth of cancers, and their spread to other sites. Some aged foods may be a problem for some of us, for example, the tyramine in mature cheese. Mould may be a problem, if bread, nuts or cheese are kept too long. Peanuts can be expected to have mould on them, and it is best to roast them, and remove the skins. If we do not have enough activity of an enzyme called rhodenase, we may have a problem with cyanide in foods such as almonds and spinach. Chickpeas contain a nervous system and bone toxin. Eating them occasionally may be acceptable, but in famine, people rely on them, and this can lead to paralysis. Rhubarb, spinach and sesame seeds contain oxalic acid, which binds to minerals, causing them to be excreted. Eating a little of many foods is wise, as we are more likely to cope with a small amount of various toxins, rather than a lot of one. Also a varied diet is more likely to provide some of all the nutrients we need.
And additives ...
Some additives are used to make foods look better, taste more, or taste sweeter. We do not need these. BHA and BHT are fat soluble antioxidants, but vitamin E can be used instead. However, if you want to buy lemon juice in a bottle to use over a period of weeks, it will have to contain a preservative, or it will not keep. The better alternative is to squeeze a lemon. Sodium nitrate and nitrite are in most ham, gammon, bacon and sausage, and in some Dutch cheese. They have been linked with cancers of the digestive tract. Most wine contains sulphite.
Some E numbers I avoid
Is it the food – or is it the additive?
And what about supplements?
One or two? Quick acting or slow?
And what about contamination?
And total load?
Some people do not react obviously badly to something they have every day, but stopping for four or five days and then trying it may unmask a problem. This is what happens with cigarettes. However, others may cope with something consumed occasionally, but start reacting if the substance is in the diet every day for a couple of months. Studies do not take this into consideration.
The American hormone specialist, Robert Lustig, tells us that his young patients with complex allergy histories recover when they limit their consumption of fructose. I wonder whether this is simply because of the fructose, or whether it is also because avoiding sugar and corn syrup in processed foods greatly reduces their intake of additives and hydrogenated oil. Yes, fructose is harmful in itself, but reducing it also reduces the children’s total chemical load.
Prescription and OTC drugs
Eat home cooked....
This seems rather a gloomy account of the state of our food, but good quality is available, and information can help us choose well.
Nutrition and Allergy Clinic
First published March 2014