“Tomorrow is never promised, so today I want to live as if my time is now.” - Unknown
Friday. For the first time in almost 20 years, The Rolling Stones will release a new original album next month. That’s right. Mick Jagger — now well into his 80s — is still, well, moving like Jagger. What’s his secret? How do you keep going strong well into your 80s? Maybe he’s a Daily Tonic subscriber and follows my advice. Yup — I’m sure that’s it. Now, moving on to something Mick Jagger and us regular folk should be aware of. Processed foods in the U.S. are just different, and not in a good way. Let’s dive in.
Sketchy Ingredients — Only In The U.S.
Canadians don’t think twice about which country has the best maple syrup and the most polite neighbors. They also don’t have to think twice about a possible carcinogen, potassium bromate, in their toast. And Europeans? They aren’t worried about which continent has the best croissants, fancy wine, or smelly cheeses. They also aren’t concerned about the potential DNA-damaging effects of titanium dioxide in their salad dressings.
So why don’t our friends up north and across the pond have to worry about any of this stuff? Because their countries have banned these ingredients. But in the U.S., that still isn’t the case.
Our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tends to be more lenient when it comes to food additives. In the U.S., additives, along with excessive amounts of sugar and trans-fats, are often present in processed foods. Meanwhile, these foods lack the essential nutrients we need. When we eat too many processed foods, we increase our risks for diseases like Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart conditions. And it turns out some of these health issues might be due to the additives in these foods.
The FDA does have a system in place to ensure food safety. They focus on acute toxicity, meaning ingredients that can cause immediate sickness or death. Unfortunately, they pay less attention to chronic toxicity, where long-term exposure to certain ingredients can lead to certain negative outcomes.
In fact, a significant number of food additives in the U.S. are classified as “Generally Recognized As Safe” or GRAS. This might sound reassuring, but it means that the FDA allows private companies to use these additives without a comprehensive review. I don’t know about you, but “generally recognized” doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. That’s a little too vague for me. Give me foods that are just plain safe.
Some ingredients were also given the green light by the FDA years ago, and there hasn’t been a revisit to check if they’re still safe, especially in light of new research findings. We basically grandfather in their approval, even though we all know scientific research can evolve over the years.
Potassium Bromate and Azodicarbonamide (ADA): These are used to improve the texture and rising of bread. Potassium bromate, especially, is concerning as it has been linked to cancer in some studies. While ADA itself isn’t alarming, it produces a chemical during baking that could be harmful.
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO): Used in some sodas, it has been linked to issues like memory loss when consumed in large amounts. Though major soda brands have phased it out, it’s still present in some drinks. Yikes.
Titanium Dioxide: Found in many products, from baked goods to salad dressings, there are concerns about its potential to damage DNA. While more research is needed, it’s still concerning enough that some countries have banned it. It also just sounds like something a superhero character's armor should be made out of, not an ingredient in our food.
Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40: These food dyes can be found in various products, from candies to cereals. Some studies suggest they can cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children. They’ve also been linked to potential cancer risks.
The key takeaway? The best approach is to educate yourself and be cautious. Reading food labels and being aware of these additives is a huge step in the right direction. While it might seem daunting to keep track of all these ingredients, there’s an easy solution: eat more unprocessed foods. Fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean meats don’t come with a long list of additives. Making them a bigger part of our diet is not only better for our health but also ensures that we’re consuming fewer potentially harmful ingredients.
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