Fattening food additives – intentional manipulation (part 2)

As we already learned are food additives the hidden threat in our food. In the second part about fattening food additives we take a closer look at specific food additives and how they act. In general, you can differentiate between additives that are added by food industries purposefully and those which are in our food more or less accidentally. This post is concerned with intentionally added substances:

  • Sweetener
    • Aspartame
    • Cyclamate
    • Fructose
  • Flavor enhancer
    • Glutamate
    • Guanylic acid
  • Preservatives

Sweeteners

Sweeteners are used to give food a sweet flavor. The idea is to use them instead of normal sugar as normal sugar in higher doses is quite bad for our health.

The problem with sweeteners:

Just as with normal sugar, after the consumption of sweeteners insulin is released in our bloodstream. Insulin helps regulating our blood sugar. It transports sugar from blood into cells and thus helps providing our brain with energy. However, as sweeteners only taste sweet but provide no “real energy” – i. e. real sugar – there is too much insulin in our blood. Every single bit of sugar in our blood is transported into cells which lead to a low blood sugar level. There are two problems with it:

  1. Short-term: The brain craves for energy and makes us want to “really” eat something. So called light products are actually induce us to eat more – quite counterproductive. At the same time this kind of food is stored by our body preferably in fat tissue as our brain thinks that a hunger crisis is on its way.
  2. Long-term: The dietary habit of eating a lot of artificial sweeteners can lead to diabetes. If our body – more concrete our pancreas – has to release a lot of insulin regularly this becomes more and more ineffective. Consequently, consumed sugar cannot be absorbed by body cells efficiently leading to an elevated blood sugar level and diabetes. In the long run heart attack, stroke, kidney insufficiency, retina damage and nervous dysfunction can be results.

In a nutshell: Due to high consumption of sweeteners our body cannot control insulin production effectively and released insulin cannot work efficiently anymore, respectively. In short-term this leads to uncontrolled eating behavior (eating too often and too  much). In the long-term we threaten our health (obesity, diabetes and so on).

 

Fun Fact: Forage producers already know about this specific effect of sweeteners: Using the slogan “sweeteners enhance weight and size” they advertise artificial sweeteners as growth promoters. In the feedstuff enactment sweeteners are listed as aromas and appetizing substances.

 

Examples for sweeteners that promote obesity

Cyclamate

Artificial sweetener, about 35 times sweeter than sugar. Results in insulin overproduction, food cravings and fat storage. Today, we eat a hell of a lot of sweet “light products” containing cyclamate. This leads also to a distaste of products that are less sweet. In other words: We get addicted to light products and deeper in this vicious cycle.

Aspartame

Artificial sweetener. Its effects are similar to those of cyclamate but it is much sweeter, about 200 times sweeter than sugar.

Fructose

Fruits contain fructose naturally. But it’s also used as sweetener in light products. Our brain usually controls which part of our body makes use of consumed sugar. For instance, glucose is used for direct energy supply. The problem with fructose is that it can manipulate our brain so it’s not used but transformed into fat. The result: fattening and obesity.

 

Flavour enhancers

Where would the world be without flavour enhancers? Seriously, no matter whether it’s cream of asparagus soup, tomato soup or pea soup without flavour enhancers every soup should be labelled the same: “salty flour stodge”. The same is true for pizzas: Without flavour enhancers you probably won’t be able to distinguish pizza with tuna from Quattro Formaggi. It’s clear what those additives aim for: being tasty, making us want to eat more and by the product again.

Unfortunately, there are two sides to every coin. Flavour enhancers influence our eating habits. They manipulate our brain causing it to send no or false signals to our body, for example reducing our feeling of satiety and fullness. Furthermore, flavour enhancers usually come along with salt. The addiction potential of salt is similar to those of drugs. The more salt we eat the more our brain craves for it. Other diseases like gout and Alzheimer’s can be promoted by those food additives.

 

Examples for appetising flavour enhancers

Glutamate

Glutamate is the all-rounder among flavour enhancers. Actually, it doesn’t enhance a food’s flavour but change it to make it salty-sweet. Furthermore, glutamate is notorious for its side effects. It floods our synapses, kills neurons and damages brain cells that regulate our appetite. A number of studies have shown that glutamate lowers levels of leptin – a hormone telling our body that we have had enough to eat – leading to food cravings and unhealthy eating habits (eating fast and eating a lot). We eat more than we expand. Glutamate impairs growth and promotes hunger and overweight especially in children. Various disease, like diabetes and glaucoma, are linked to effects of glutamate.

Guanylic acid

Guanylic acid is produced by means of genetically modified microorganisms. It unfolds its full potential in very salty foodstuffs. The problem: salt is addictive. Guanylic acid is an interesting example for the effects of substances where animal studies are little meaningful for human beings. While mice and rats can transform guanylic acid into harmless substance, the human body breaks it down to uric acid. Too much of uric acid in our blood are likely to be deposited as crystals in joints and soft tissue. The result: gout.

 

Preservatives

To come to the point first: I think we all would agree that we don’t want to go back to the Stone Age or pre-industrial era. With a few exceptions like hunters, farmers and fishermen most of us can’t imagine getting their food out of nature all on their own. It’s not just too time consuming but most of us lack abilities to build a weapon as well as hunt, slaughter and process an animal. And we shouldn’t forget about the hunger we would need to withstand when we aren’t successful.

To cut a long story short: Preservatives enable us to get almost every food at almost every time and in almost every supermarket super easy. Without a question making foods durable is one of humans’ biggest accomplishments. Without continuous access to food we wouldn’t have been able to spread as extensively as we did.

However, as with everything, there is no light without shadow. Preservatives increase the shelf life of foods by delaying spoilage through bacteria or mould. On the one hand they protect foods from mould toxins but on the other hand preservatives promote the formation of mould toxins as soon as their preservative effect decreases. Furthermore, salt is often used in order to make food durable. That brings us back to the addiction potential of salt.

Besides the addictive power of salt which can lead to higher food consumption preservatives have a lower impact on our weight than flavour enhancers and sweeteners do. Yet, they have a number of other side effects.

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