Posted: 05 September 2007
Also remember this weekend is Aspartame Awareness Weekend - http://www.mpwhi.com/fda_to_review_ramazzini_aspartame_study.htm
The below article originally appeared at: http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/menuitem.2c913216495213d5df646910cba0a0a0/?vgnextoid=6dfe49e25dbb4110VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=teaser&ss=Health&s=Life
Badditives Exposed Chemicals in foods are being blamed for everything from hyperactivity to DNA damage
Rosalind Ryan of Guardian News & Media
Updated on Sep 03, 2007
Do you know exactly what's in that packet of crisps you're munching on? How about the soft drink you're swilling? Or even the ice cream you're planning to eat later? Although additives to processed foods may have been approved individually, some experts fear that their combined effect on the body still aren't known.
"These chemicals are tested one at a time and declared safe one at a time - but we're exposed to a mixture," says Vyvyan Howard, a pathologist and professor of bioimaging at the University of Ulster who has conducted research into the cocktail effects of food additives. "Their combined effect could be more than simply adding two or three separate chemicals."
Similarly, Peter Piper from Sheffield University has just issued a stark warning that certain compounds in carbonated drinks could damage cell DNA. And a study into the effect of additives on children's behaviour, being conducted by the University of Southampton on behalf of the British Food Standards Agency (FSA), has found that certain colourings and additives can increase hyperactivity.
Both the FSA and experts who are concerned about additives agree that if you want to live an additive-free life, the easiest option is to eat food that's freshly prepared. But if you do buy processed food, it can't hurt to know about some of the more common additives you're feeding your body.
E211 (sodium benzoate)
Piper found that E211, a common additive to soft drinks, pickles and sauces to prevent mould, may damage DNA. It can cause the same sort of liver damage seen in alcoholics, and is linked to neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Piper's original laboratory research was published in 1999, but he's raising the issue again to highlight the need for new safety tests. "Many of the tests on these chemicals were done 50 years ago when we simply didn't know how to measure this kind of damage," he says. A review by the World Health Organisation in 2000 reported a large number of findings of people having suffered from hives, asthma and anaphylactic shock after exposure to sodium benzoate.
E621 (monosodium glutamate)
A flavour enhancer often associated with Chinese food, MSG is also found in canned and frozen foods, and snacks such as crisps. A study by Hirosaki University in 2002 found that eating a diet high in MSG can damage the retina, leading to loss of vision. The Migraine Trusts also lists MSG as a common migraine trigger and says that many sufferers eliminate it from their diets. Last year, Howard and a team of researchers from the University of Liverpool found that MSG combined with other additives such as brilliant blue food colouring stopped nerve cells growing and disrupted brain-signalling systems.
This controversial additive is 180 times sweeter than sugar and found in many sugar-free foods, including soft drinks, cakes and dairy products. A number of reports have cast doubt on its safety. There were concerns over its use as long as 20 years ago. Louis Elsas, a professor of genetics and paediatrics, testified before the US Congress in 1987 that aspartame could cause neurological damage in children and raised concerns about the additive passing from pregnant mothers to their unborn children, affecting brain development. However, the European Food Safety Authority last year approved it as safe to use.
This synthetic food dye gives many foods their bright yellow colouring. The FSA says studies show that E102 can cause hives, itchy skin or asthma in susceptible people. It's also been linked to hyperactivity in children. Research by the Hyperactive Children's Support Group in 1987 found that 87 per cent of children diagnosed as hyperactive also had adverse reactions to artificial colourings. A University of Southampton study in 2004 found that children who consumed additives, including tartrazine, were more hyperactive.
E104 (quinoline yellow)
Another yellow dye, E104, which is used to colour medicines, soft drinks, Scotch eggs and smoked fish, has been banned in the US and Australia because of its possible cancer-causing properties. Studies by the US National Toxicology Programme in 1997 found that rats fed the colouring had higher rates of liver and kidney tumours. Howard's team found that when E104 was combined with aspartame (many common soft drinks contain both), the effect on nerve cells was up to seven times greater than when the additives were tested alone. The combined additives weren't tested in large quantities, but at concentrations that mimicked the amount in a child's bloodstream after eating foods containing the colourings. The Aspartame Information Service, which represents the sweetener industry, has dismissed the research, saying that it "did not provide any meaningful information" because it exposed mouse cells in the laboratory to undigested aspartame. Quinoline yellow is also being studied in trials by the University of Southampton.
A gelling agent extracted from seaweed by boiling, carrageenan can be found in ice cream and yoghurts, or as a fat substitute in some meat and soya products. Twenty-five years ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer said there was enough evidence from animal tests to class degraded carrageenan (carrageenan heated to high temperatures and treated with acid to make it easier to use in other substances) as a potential cancer-causing agent for humans. Degraded carrageenan isn't permitted in food, but a review of studies into the additive and cancer by the University of Iowa in 2001 found that carrageenan in a pure state could become degraded in the digestive system, leading to an increased risk of cancers in the gut.
E220 (sulphur dioxide)
This preservative is commonly used in beer, wine, soft drinks and dried fruits to stop fermentation. Inhaling it can induce attacks in asthmatics and it has also been linked to stomach upsets. The WHO expert committee on food additives has confirmed that sulphur dioxide can destroy vitamin B1, so a soft drink could wipe out your meal's vitamin B1 content. Other WHO animal and lab tests show that consuming E220 can increase the amount of calcium lost by the body, raising the risk of the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis, and can cause DNA damage.
E124 (ponceau 4R)
This red food colouring is often found in soft drinks, sweets and puddings, and is being investigated for links to hyper-activity. E124 has been banned in the US and Norway as a cancer-causing chemical. A 2001 study in Toxicological Sciences drew a connection between the colouring and tumours in animals, but called for more research. A review of food additives by the FSA's committee on toxicity last year found that ponceau 4R affects brain development in young children.
Dr. Betty Martini
Founder, Mission Possible World Health International
9270 River Club Parkway
Duluth, Georgia 30097
Aspartame Toxiocity Center: http://www.holisticmed.com/aspartame