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.

Fattening food additives – the hidden threat in our food (part 1)

Certainly, some of us have already experienced the following: You are going to the gym/muscle factory regularly, lifting as if you’re going to perform for the mister or miss of the universe show, squeezed in super tight sportswear just in order to keep focus and motivation, and meticulously analysing what kind of food may be allowed – and how much – while your stomach is desperately picking up every crumb it gets. As if that weren’t enough you’re tracking every step via app or diet diary. And yet, whatever you do, you don’t get the shape you desire – or you even gain weight. Seriously: what the hell!

How is that possible? You’re tracking every bite, you’re performing beyond your limit, perhaps there are already rumors you are mistreating yourself and still it seems your body doesn’t want to get lean. The reason is as simple as shocking. There are several factors. However, there is one almost nobody considers: food additives.

Additives in our food

This article doesn’t give attention to the well-known yo-yo effect that is striking back after finishing your diet. This is a case of an entirely unknown phenomenon: programming our brain to “fattening mode”. Admittedly, the introduction above seems to be extreme, almost excessive. Though, it is true. However, this post doesn’t primarily focus on why you can’t lose weight in spite of every effort. Rather, we want to have a closer look at fattening ingredients we didn’t put our attention on yet: food additives.

Food additives are known to everybody. At least, everyone has heard about it. As its name suggests food additives are additives that are added to our food. This happens both intentionally and accidentally. Intentionally added additives are used to improve our food – as flavour enhancer, preservative agents, colouring substances as well as (alleged) healthier substitutes. Often and intentionally used food additives that are suspected to cause weight gain are:

  • Sweeteners
  • Flavour enhancer
  • Preservative agents

Moreover, there are additives that under no circumstances should be found in our food. However, it occurs in many food products – added accidentally or indirectly. Some of these substances leading to increase in weight are:

  • Coatings
  • Plasticisers
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals
  • Perfluorinated chemicals
  • Antibiotics

So far, so good. But how is it possible that diet coke, mineral water, fruits and low-fat products increase our body weight?

The power of our brain

The human brain is a masterpiece of nature. Everything we do and everything we are is only possible by means of our grey matter. Not only does it control complicated movements, communication and reproduction but it also controls us – without us noticing it. We are not even able to influence this manipulation. We’re using our brain for the daily life. In doing so this organic supercomputer consumes huge amounts of energy to run smoothly. In order to get this energy it uses us in turn. Researchers found, that there are several systems within this control centre pursuing one goal only: maximum energy gain. To this end, our brain makes our body to maximise the energy intake – in the form of food. This leads to another problem: the more we feat our brain, the more it demands. This so called “hungry brain syndrome” has the same effect as drugs.

However, only blaming our brain wouldn’t help to solve the problem. As the saying goes, we are what we eat. Accordingly, the key problem is the nutrition or, to be more exact, the quantity as well as the quality of energy we are providing to our brain – or do not. Many of these consumed additives have two things in common: They provide misleading information to our brain by pretending energy intake that doesn’t exist at all. The moment our grey matter realises the fake it strikes back promptly by provoking food cravings. Furthermore, many of these additives cause addiction. They influence our eating behaviour by telling our brain to ask for more of these empty calories. It’s a vicious circle.

What’s next

If you wanna know what kind of food additives influences our eating habits and how they manipulate our metabolism and the brain functions have a look at the second article Fattening food additives – specific manipulation. Here you learn which additives are added systematically, why and what side effects come with them.

 

In a nutshell

Our brain consumes huge quantities of energy. To ensure to get these it manipulates our body by forcing us to eat more than necessary. At the end of the day we’re getting fat as a result of too much calories we consume combined with too little physical activity. However, it may happen that you miss your body goals (fat loss > reduced body weight), even when being disciplined with your workouts and tracking your food intake. That’s because of the food additives which, despite of analysing our nutrition precisely, we consume daily. These additives influence our metabolism and manipulate the communication between brain and body – we eat more than needed.  Particularly alarming in this context is the fact that additives are not only added specifically but also get into our food with detours.