Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Dangers of Processed Foods

By Dr. N. Perricone

Recently the fast food industry has come under attack for some very unpleasant facts about what might be lurking in your hamburger. Most people simply take for granted that the meals and foods that they buy in restaurants, especially huge chains, or in the supermarkets is actually 'food.'

Merriam Webster dictionary defines food in the following manner:

1. Food : material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy; also : such material together with supplementary substances (as minerals, vitamins, and condiments)

2. Food: nutriment in solid form  Not to rain on anybody's parade, but I beg to differ. So much, in fact, too much 'food' isn't really wholesome nourishing 'food' at all. To the giant food purveyors, whether it be restaurants or grocers, it's all about shelf life. Fresh, life-sustaining foods are fragile.


They are not meant to sit on a shelf for unlimited times. Enter the world of processed foods. A simple definition is: foods that have been changed from their natural state. A boiled egg or steamed broccoli, therefore do fall under the category of 'processed food'. But for our purposes, we are talking about foods that have been chemically altered in an unhealthy and undesirable fashion.

When I was writing Ageless Face Ageless Mind I added a section on how to recognize food additives to avoid and I am reprinting it here to help readers know what to look for when shopping or dining out.

Food Additives to Avoid

Hidden Sugars - Sugar comes in many forms. Therefore it is very important to learn to recognize that there are many forms of sugar; in fact, the word "sugar" may or may not appear on the label at all. Look for: white sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, confectioner's sugar, invert sugar, raw sugar, beet sugar, turbinado sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrin, honey, maple, evaporated cane juice, malt, molasses, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, maltose.

Artificial coloring - synthetic food dyes are unnecessary and are either toxic or possible carcinogens, which mean that they may promote cancer.

Aspartame and all artificial sweeteners, including saccharin - these are dangerous excitotoxins with many negative effects.

BHT and BHA - used to preserve fats and oils. Studies indicate that they may be carcinogenic.

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) - used in citrus flavored sodas and banned in more than 100 countries. It has been linked to damage in the major organ systems. Apparently the FDA does not require that it be listed on labels - so avoid any citrus flavored sodas (such as lemon or lime) as it is a good bet that BVO is included.

Carrageenan - stabilizer and thickening agent; found in everything from ice cream to yogurt. May be a carcinogen and is linked to toxic hazards, including ulcers and cancer; In addition to suppressing immune function, carrageenan causes intestinal ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease in animals and some research indicates that carrageenan is associated with causing cancer in humans.

Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils - these are the infamous trans fats directly linked to heart disease. The FDA published a paper stating that if people in the US stopped eating trans fat there would be 30,000 to 100,000 less deaths per year from CHD. Trans fats are also linked to breast and colon cancer, atherosclerosis, elevated cholesterol, depressed immune system, and allergies.

Nitrates - form powerful cancer-causing agents in stomach; are found in smoked foods such as deli foods, cured meats, bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni, sausage, etc.

MSG - A dangerous excitotoxin that may cause headaches, itching, nausea, nervous system and reproductive disorders, high blood pressure; pregnant, lactating mothers, infants, small children should avoid MSG; allergic reactions common; may be hidden in infant formula, low fat milk, candy, chewing gum, drinks, over-the-counter medications. Look for the following ingredients that contain MSG:
  • Monosodium Glutamate 
  • Calcium Caseinate 
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein 
  • Sodium Caseinate 
  • Hydrolyzed Protein 
  • Yeast Extract 
  • Hydrolyzed Plant Protein 
  • Textured Protein (Including TVP) 
  • Plant Protein Extract 
  • Autolyzed Yeast 
  • Hydrolyzed Oat Flour 
  • Corn Oil

Neotame - related to aspartame, but allegedly more toxic.

Olestra - this fat substitute causes gastrointestinal distress.  Also lowers absorption of carotenoids, nutrients that lower our risk of cancer and other fat-soluble nutrients.

Potassium bromate - bromate causes cancer.  Potassium bromate is used in bread making.

Sulfites - can cause dangerous allergic reactions – often found in wine as well as salad bars. 

A final note 

I strongly recommend that you avoid all forms of soda, even so-called 'natural' sodas. Soda is dangerous for several reasons, including its sugar content or even worse, those sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Almost every bottle or can of soda on the market is now made with high fructose corn syrup, which increases the appetite and promotes obesity to a far greater degree than cane sugar. A great many sodas also contain caramel coloring, and it is not just the obvious, such as colas and root beer. The bad news is that caramel coloring is actually burnt sugar, which is both carcinogenic and immuno-suppressive.  The FDA is aware of this and mandates that any food or beverage containing caramel coloring must list it on the product label. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of this darker side to a substance that sounds harmless but is in fact toxic. Sodas can also contain sodium benzoate - a popular preservative that can react with ascorbic acid to form the cancer-causing chemical benzene.





To find healthy and delicious alternatives to processed foods, visit the Perricone MD anti-inflammatory diets page.

*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.
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