Common Food Ingredient Could be Making You Sick (and Fat)

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Let me learn ya a little something about the FDA real quick.

Anyone who knows me has heard my numerous rants about the FDA being corrupt, inept, and downright shady.  Don’t get me wrong, they do a lot of good work (sometimes), but they, like many organizations run by the government, are an absolute mess.  Sorry, not sorry government!

Courtesy of accordingtobakari.com
Courtesy of accordingtobakari.com

Take into consideration this recent article that blew the lid off of FDA corruption and scandal. Or this incident. Or this one. Orrr… ok, I think you kinda get the picture.

A couple more points about the FDA before we continue:

  1. They don’t conduct any scientific tests/studies themselves.  They rely on tests the companies conduct on their own to verify whether their product is safe or not.  What the who-what-huh?
  2. They deny a product ONLY if it’s proven to have a drastic negative impact on health, e.g. causes cancer, causes heart disease, kills people, etc., or if the benefits of the product don’t outweigh the risks.  They don’t really care whether something causes digestive issues, inflammation, or makes you a Fatty McFatterpants.

What’s the learning here?  Just because something is approved by the FDA doesn’t mean it’s safe and/or good for you.  That point is for all the jerks who shout, “It’s fine! The FDA said it’s OK, ya hippy!”

Study Found Emulsifiers to Cause Obesity and Gut Inflammation in Mice.

Recently a very interesting study came out supporting what I just ranted about. Emulsifiers, which are ingredients used in most processed foods (and approved by the FDA since the 70’s) were found to:

 

  • Thin the protective mucus in the intestine, allowing bad bacteria to munch through the lining
  • Change the gut microbiota (A decrease in bacteria known to fight inflammation and an increase in bacteria known to cause inflammation)
  • Cause obesity
  • Raise blood sugar levels
  • Trigger chronic colitis in mice with compromised immune systems
  • Increase gut inflammation in healthy mice

WELL THAT SUCKS.

Poor, whittle, fat mouse...
Poor, whittle, fat mouse…

Thoughts on the Study

Dosage Arguments

Already people are attacking the study claiming that the dosage given to the mice was too high and therefore the study was bunk.  And I get it!  It’s good to question studies! It’s what keeps you from going insane with all the conflicting info out there…

HOWEVER, in my sneaky investigations I have found that most of the groups/people attacking the study are “supported” by companies such as Coca Cola, Hershey, Kraft Foods, Monsanto (eek!), McDonald’s. etc.  ALL companies that have tons to lose if emulsifiers are found to cause obesity and inflammation. How interesting!

Courtesy of imgarcade.com
Courtesy of imgarcade.com

Also, they claim that no human eating a balanced diet could consume the amount of emulsifiers that were given to the mice.  I’m sorry, but I have to laugh at that one.  Americans are FAMOUS for eating horribly, eating mostly processed foods, and not eating a balanced diet.  So yeah…

In the study’s defense, they claimed that the mice were given doses, “seeking to model the broad consumption of the numerous emulsifiers that are incorporated into almost all processed foods.”

Emulsifiers Used

Unfortunately they only tested two types of emulsifiers (polysorbate-80 and carboxymethylcellulose), so the information is limited to only those two types.

Human Studies

This study was only done on mice, so take that with a grain of salt.  We have no way of knowing at this point if the same reaction will happen in humans.  Hopefully the results of this study will lead to more testing on some poor college students looking to earn a buck.

poor student

So What Does This Mean?

No, I don’t think everyone should grab pitchforks and torches and march to the White House demanding to make emulsifiers illegal. I’m not Food Babe (sorry, not sorry Food Babe), ok people?

And I don’t believe this study proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that emulsifiers are bad for you.  This is a new study and, to my knowledge, hasn’t been challenged or recreated in other studies yet.

However, this could be even MOAR support for the argument that we shouldn’t be eating so many processed friggen’ foods!  Let’s be honest folks, you’re not dumb.  You know in your fatty heart of hearts that processed food is horrible.  However, I know they be tasty, so eating them occasionally won’t kill ya.

dietcat

This info could also be helpful to people who suffer from some of the issues listed above.  They might want to consider cutting down the amount of processed foods consumed or cut them out altogether.  Start cooking for yourself, shop the perimeter of the store (where all the veggies, fruits, and meats are), and see if you notice an improvement in your symptoms.

!!!Spoiler Alert!!!

YOU WILL SEE IMPROVEMENT. I promise you.

This study also raises some interesting questions such as: What if the whole anti-gluten/gluten intolerance/gluten allergy problem could be the cause of emulsifiers as opposed to gluten (bread contains emulsifiers)?  If that’s the case, we could all eat pasta and bread again if the stinky emulsifiers were taken out.

And the people rejoiced…

Or, what if the drastic increase in Crohn’s, Colitis, Celiac, and IBS could be attributed to these emulsifiers?  Interesting stuff!

But Lana, I’m freaking out!  What are emulsifiers and how can I avoid them?

There are a lot of emulsifiers out there and they’re in a lot of products, which can seem overwhelming.  Plus they’re usually named something weird like: polysorbate 20 or ceteareth 20.  But if you know what they are, they’re pretty easy to recognize.

Tube on the left is an emulsion; tube on the right is not.
Tube on the left is an emulsion; tube on the right is not.

Emulsifiers are substances that make an emulsion (a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally non-mixable or unblendable) possible.  Oil and water are perfect examples of ingredients that normally don’t blend.

So basically, without looking at every ingredient in a processed food, you can just ask yourself, “Would this product normally look this way on its own in nature?”

For instance:

  • Coconut milk, when made from just coconut and water, will look more like the test tube on the right.  The fat rises to the top and the water stays on the bottom.  But it doesn’t look like that in the store, now does it?
  • Salad dressing that has oil, water, and/or vinegar should also separate.  However, most salad dressing you purchase stays all nice and blended.
  • Ice Cream and chocolate would normally not be that creamy or solid.  The creamier the ice cream/chocolate, most likely the more emulsifiers. Sowie…
  • Mayonnaise would separate on its own.  But since that’s not pretty to Americans, emulsifiers are added.
Examples of products that have emulsifiers in them:
  • Bread
  • Processed meats
  • Beauty Products (although they’re not usually ingested…)
  • Vitamins
  • Vaccines
  • Margarine
  • Toothpaste
  • Cough Drops
  • Non-Dairy Creamer
  • Laxatives
  • Some Cheese Products such as cottage cheese and cream cheese.  Basically any cheese that’s altered a bit, e.g. Kraft singles (a.k.a. “American Processed Cheese Food”), Velveeta, etc.
  • Antacids

Whew.  That’s a long list and it doesn’t even cover it all.

So what have we learned?

  1. Don’t ever blindly trust the FDA.
  2. Emulsifiers were found to cause obesity and gut inflammation in mice.  However the study is new and there hasn’t been a human trial yet.
  3. Emulsifiers are in a lot of processed foods and products.
  4. Processed foods may have negative impacts on your health beyond just making you fat.
  5. If you so choose, you can avoid emulsifiers by eating a diet made up mostly of whole foods, e.g. veggies, fruits, seeds, meats, poultry, fish, and oils.  WHICH YOU SHOULD BE DOING ANYWAY DAGNABBIT.
Gratuitous Rant Time

And finally, what I’ve learned, is that our aesthetic-obsessed culture is really harshin’ my mellow man…  I’m not even gonna touch the whole “you gotta be young, perfect, and airbrushed” issue yet… YET.

But, our need for things to look pretty and perfect is also ruining our food.  We want our salad dressing blended, our honey clear, our fruit waxed to a blinding shine and free of bug bites, and our meat without bones or a face.

This need is causing two issues:

  1. We miss out on a lot of key nutrients when we “clean up” our natural foods.  Then we try to compensate by popping vitamin supplements.
  2. Companies add bizarre and/or potentially dangerous ingredients and filter out nutrients in order to get our lame-o selves to purchase their “pretty” products.

So please, just stop the insanity and stop fighting nature! Eat ugly food!!!!

End rant.

So there’s the information, do with it as you wish.  If you have any questions, please head to my Contact page and shoot me an email!

References

http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2109855

http://www.science20.com/news_articles/emulsifiers_promote_obesity_and_colitis_in_mice-153499

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150225132105.htm

http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/common-food-additive-promotes-inflammatory-bowel-disease-and-obesity-mice