What You Should Know about Preservatives

You probably could not help but notice the irony that preservatives–which are intended to prolong food shelf life, prevent food decomposition caused by chemical changes and prevent the growth of microorganisms–can produce detrimental effects on your body. Despite the numerous studies documenting the harmful effects of preservatives and other additives on the human body, you may be one of those who continue to eat processed foods and seem unaware of the threats these substances pose to your health. If you are serious about safeguarding your health, you should carefully check the labels of the foods you eat for any of these dangerous substances.

Nitrates and Nitrites

Nitrates and nitrites, such as sodium nitrite, are known carcinogens or substances that can cause cancer. They are found in canned, processed meats, such as bacon, hot dogs, ham, corned beef, luncheon meats and smoked fish.


Benzoates are found in pickles, margarine, flour, fruit juices and purees, and beer. They could trigger allergies and cause brain damage with prolonged intake.

Butylated Hydroxyl Anisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene

BHA and BHT are synthetic antioxidants used to preserve foods such as cereals, potato chips, vegetables and chewing gum. In the human body, however, BHA and BHT are known carcinogens.

Propyl Gallate

A preservative that is often partnered with BHA and BHT, propyl gallate also possesses carcinogenic properties. It could also cause birth defects.


Bromates are used as preservatives in bread and white flour. Prior to their banning, bromates were found to induce diarrhea and cause cancer.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is a flavor enhancer found in restaurant dishes, chips, salad dressings, soups and frozen foods. Although studies on MSG remain controversial, some of the harmful effects that have been documented include headaches and nausea.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are known to cause heart disease. They are usually present in restaurant and fast food dishes due to reuse of cooking oil.


Glutamates are preservatives and flavor enhancers. They are known to cause headaches, dizziness, palpitations and cancer.


Found in preserved and dried fruits, corn syrup and corn starch, wine and wine vinegar, preserved olives and jarred peppers, sulfites possess carcinogenic properties. They can also trigger palpitations, allergies, headaches and joint pains.

Monoglycerides and Diglycerides

These are preservatives found in breads, cakes, cookies, pies, peanut butter, margarine and dry roasted nuts. Monoglycerides and diglycerides are carcinogenic and can cause birth defects.


Aspartame is an artificial sweetener found in so-called low-calorie diet foods. It can cause cancer or neurological problems, such as dizziness, diminished motor function and coordination, and hallucinations.


Acesulfame-K is an artificial sweetener found in chewing gum, gelatins and baked goods. Lab tests on rats showed that acesulfame-K could cause cancer.


Found in potato chips, olestra is a synthetic fat that is known to inhibit the absorption of vitamins. It can cause abdominal pains, bloating due to gas and severe diarrhea.

Food Coloring

Red 3 has been found to induce the growth of thyroid tumors in mice. Blue 1 and 2 in candies, pastries, pet foods and beverages are documented carcinogens. Green 3 is linked to bladder cancer. Yellow 4 is implicated in cancer of the adrenals and kidneys.


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