Food Ingredients To Avoid List

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in current health articles, Food and Health, Health Current Events, Nutritiion

Food Ingredients to Avoid Part 2: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

food additivesIt is getting really hard to find a food or food supplement that doesn’t have any ingredients on the internet “naughty list”. The problem is that many of the internet warnings about food ingredients are what I call “urban nutrition myths”.  Want to know the truth about which additives should be on the  food ingredients to avoid list?

Last week I identified the top 25 food ingredients on the internet “naughty list” and told you which ones were actually “good” – OK for most people most of the time. This week I’m going to tell which ones are “bad” and which ones are truly “ugly”.

Food Ingredients to Avoid List?  The Bad

food ingredients to avoid badThe term “bad” for the food ingredients in this list is a bit of a misnomer. These are food ingredients that some people will want to avoid, but are perfectly OK for many people. In some cases, the type of food the ingredients are added to determines whether the ingredient is OK or should be avoided.  So, the following could possibly be on your food ingredients to avoid list.

Sodium Nitrate and Nitrite: This is a topic I have covered in a previous article titled “Nitric Oxide Benefits and Side Effects” . It is a perfect example of a food ingredient that can be “bad” in certain foods and “good” in others. Briefly:

  • When sodium nitrate and/or sodium nitrate are added to processed meats, they can combine with the amino acids from the meat in the intestine to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. As you might suspect, this is not a good thing.
  • On the other hand, when sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite are found in fruits are vegetables or combined with natural antioxidants such as vitamin C, they are converted to nitric oxide, which has a number of beneficial effects in the body. So when they are present in these foods or food supplements, they are actually beneficial.

Sugar & High Fructose Corn Syrup: As I said in my video “The Truth About Sugar” , there are no sugar villains and there are no sugar heroes. For example, high fructose corn syrup has been particularly vilified in recent years, but its chemical composition is not significantly different from honey and agave nectar, which are considered to be “good” sugars.

The problems associated with sugars of all types in the American diet are related to the amount of sugar in our diet (too much) and the kinds of foods they are found in. Let’s focus on that last one for a minute.

  • When sugars are consumed as a part of foods that are rich in fiber and/or protein they have much less of an effect on blood sugar levels (a lower glycemic index) than when they are consumed in sodas, juices and highly processed foods. That’s important because the bad health consequences of sugars are primarily caused by foods that lead to high blood sugar levels. See, for example, my article “Can Soft Drinks Cause Heart Disease?” .
  • Consequently, we should be focusing on the glycemic index (the effect on blood sugar levels) of the foods we eat rather than obsessing about the amount or kinds of sugar on the label.

MSG: MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a particularly interesting case. MSG is the sodium salt of the amino acid glutamate.

Glutamate is a neurotransmitter.

  • When MSG is used as a flavor enhancer in foods with a low protein content, the glutamate is very rapidly taken up by the brain and can overstimulate some neurons.
  • For most people this is no problem, but a small number of people experience what used to be called “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” due to the large amounts of MSG used in some Chinese foods.
  • The common symptoms associated with “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” are headache, sweating, skin flushing, nausea & fatigue. Allergic reactions to MSG can even be life threatening in some individuals.

Glutamate is also found in every protein we eat. Consequently, we create lots of MSG in our intestine every time we eat and digest protein. In this situation it is no more harmful than any other amino acid in the proteins we eat.

  • The most logical explanation for this phenomenon is that when all of the amino acids are in our bloodstream simultaneously they compete with glutamate for uptake into the brain. This slows the entry of glutamate into the brain and prevents overstimulation of neurons.

The bottom line is that MSG as a flavor enhancer is harmless for most people, but problematic for some. MSG as a component of hydrolyzed vegetable protein or sodium caseinate is harmless because it is in balance with the other naturally occurring amino acids. Some websites claim that MSG is found in maltodextrin and citric acid. It is not.

Salt (Sodium): I could, and probably should, write a whole article on sodium intake. Suffice it to say that 1) most of us consume too much sodium, 2) most of that sodium is hidden in the foods we eat rather than added at the table, and 3) some people are more sensitive to the bad effects of sodium than others.

Refined Grains: Again, this could be a whole article. Suffice it to say that 1) whole grains are better than refined grains and 2) most of us would benefit from eating fewer grains in any form and more fruits and vegetables in their place.

Food Ingredients to Avoid List: The Ugly

Finally, there are some food ingredients that most experts (except for those in the food industry) agree should be avoided. I call them the dirty dozen. All should be on everyone’s food ingredients to avoid list.  They are:

food ingredients to avoid ugly

  • Trans fats (also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils).
  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame-K
  • Sucralose
  • Artificial colors
  • Artificial flavors
  • BHA & BHT
  • Propyl gallate
  • Sodium and potassium benzoate
  • Potassium bromate
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Polysorbate 80

 

The Bottom Line

If you were to believe everything you read on the internet about food ingredients that you should avoid, you could end up spending most of your day reading food labels and still find very few foods that you could eat. Some of those warnings are true, some are partially true, and some are mostly myths.

To help you determine which to place on your food ingredients to avoid list,  I have identified the top 25 food ingredient warnings and have divided them into the good, the bad and the ugly.

  • The “good” are those food ingredients that are perfectly OK for most people, most of the time. Here are some examples (see the article above for a full explanation).
  • Soy: The supposed dangers of soy have been disproven by numerous clinical studies, but the myths persist. I do recommend that you choose non-GMO soy protein.
  • GMO: GMO foods and proteins are a concern but purified food ingredients obtained from GMO foods pose no health risks. There are, however, possible environmental concerns due to the overuse of Roundup.
  • Carrageenan and Caramel Color: In this case it is contaminants rather than the food ingredients themselves that are the problem. As long as you choose a manufacturer who performs rigorous quality control tests on their ingredients, you need not be concerned about these ingredients.
  • Canola Oil, Maltodextrin and Soy lecithin: The supposed dangers of these food ingredients are myths. They are not backed up by credible clinical studies. However, they are generally derived from GMO foods, so there is a possible environmental concern.
  • The “bad” are the food ingredients that do pose a problem for some people, particularly when those ingredients are found in the wrong kinds of foods. However, those same ingredients are OK for many people when they are in the right foods.
  • Sodium nitrate and nitrite: Those ingredients are a concern when added to processed meats, but are actually healthy when found in fresh fruits and vegetables or combined with antioxidants such as vitamin C.
  • Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup: We definitely need to reduce the amount of sugar in our diet. However, when looking at individual foods we should focus more on glycemic index than on the amount or kind of sugar.
  • MSG: MSG is a concern for some individuals when used as a flavor enhancer in low protein foods. However, it poses no risk when it is present as a component of partially digested proteins such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein or sodium casseinate.
  • The “ugly” are those ingredients that most experts agree we should avoid. They include trans fats, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives and a few others listed above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Comments (2)

  • kathy aleman

    |

    the issue of GMO ingredients, I haven’t been able to get a sound answer from Shaklee on GMO’s in their products. I see that you have on products to avoid canola oil, maltodextrin, soy leccithin. How is it different when Shaklee uses them in their products. I never buy canola oil. Also why would we use non-gmo soy but not other non gmo ingredients for the Shaklee products. What is the logic? and where is the proof that any GMO is really okay for the human to ingest.. I am getting these questions more and more.. please help.

    Reply

    • Dr. Steve Chaney

      |

      Dear Kathy,

      All of the supplement manufacturers are struggling with the GMO ingredient issue. The problem is that there is a mythology that has grown up around the GMO issue that is not scientifically sound. If you are talking about a plant or a protein derived from a plant, it is indeed possible that genetic modifications could cause issues for some people. However, purified ingredients such as canola oil, maltodextrin and lecithin contain no genetic material. They are chemically and biologically identical from GMO and non-GMO sources. Companies have to choose between continuing to produce scientifically sound supplements, or produce more expensive non-GMO supplements based on irrational market pressures. If you go to https://healthtipsfromtheprofessor.com and type GMO in the search box, you will find some of my articles on the topic. If you click on the Video tab, you will find my “Truth about GMO” video.

      DR. Chaney

      Reply

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Latest Article

Should We Use Supplements For Cardiovascular Health?

Posted July 10, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Are You Just Wasting Your Money On Supplements?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

supplements for cardiovascular health wast moneyYou’ve seen the headlines. “Recent Study Finds Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Don’t Lower Heart Disease Risk.”  You are being told that supplements are of no benefit to you. They are a waste of money. You should follow a healthy diet instead. Is all of this true?

If I were like most bloggers, I would give you a simple yes or no answer that would be only partially correct. Instead, I am going to put the study behind these headlines into perspective. I am going to give you a deeper understanding of supplementation, so you can make better choices for your health.

 Should we use supplements for cardiovascular health?

In today’s article I will give you a brief overview of the subject. Here are the topics I will cover today:

  • Is this fake news?
  • Did the study ask the right questions?
  • Is this a question of “Garbage In – Garbage Out?
  • Reducing Heart Disease Risk. What you need to know.

All these topics are covered in much more detail (with references) in my book “Slaying The Supplement Myths”, which will be published this fall.

 

How Was This Study Done?

supplements for cardiovascular healthThis study (D.J.A. Jenkins et al, Journal of the American College Of Cardiology, 71: 2540-2584, 2018 ) was a meta-analysis. Simply put, that means the authors combined the results of many previous studies into a single database to increase the statistical power of their conclusions. This study included 127 randomized control trials published between 2012 and December 2017. These were all studies that included supplementation and looked at cardiovascular end points, cancer end points or overall mortality.

Before looking at the results, it is instructive to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the study. Rather than giving you my interpretation, let me summarize what the authors said about strengths and weaknesses of their own study.

The strengths are obvious. Randomized control trials are considered the gold standard of evidence-based medicine, but they have their weaknesses. Here is what the authors said about the limitations of their study:

  • “Randomized control trials are of shorter duration, whereas longer duration studies might be required to fully capture chronic disease risk.”
  • “Dose-response data were not usually available [from the randomized control studies included in their analysis]. However, larger studies would allow the effect of dose to be assessed.”

There are some other limitations of this study, which I will point out below.

Is This Fake News?

supplements for cardiovascular health fake newsWhen I talk about “fake news” I am referring to the headlines, not to the study behind the headlines. The headlines were definitive: “Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Don’t Lower Heart Disease Risk.” However, when you read the study the reality is quite different:

  • In contrast to the negative headlines, the study reported:
    • Folic acid supplementation decreased stroke risk by 20% and overall heart disease risk by 17%.
    • B complex supplements containing folic acid, B6, and B12 decreased stroke risk by 10%.
    • That’s a big deal, but somehow the headlines forgot to mention it.
  • The supplements that had no significant effect on heart disease risk (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C) were ones that would not be expected to lower heart disease risk. There was little evidence from previous studies of decreased risk. Furthermore, there is no plausible mechanism for supposing they might decrease heart disease risk.
  • The study did not include vitamin E or omega-3 supplements, which are the ones most likely to prove effective in decreasing heart disease risk when the studies are done properly (see below).

Did The Study Ask The Right Question?

Most of the studies included in this meta-analysis were asking whether a supplement decreased heart disease risk or mortality for everyone. Simply put, the studies started with a group of generally healthy Americans and asked whether supplementation had a significant effect on disease risk for everyone in that population.

That is the wrong question. We should not expect supplementation to benefit everyone equally. Instead, we should be asking who is most likely to benefit from supplementation and design our clinical studies to test whether those people benefit from supplementation.

supplements for cardiovascular health diagramI have created the graphic on the right as a guide to help answer the question of “Who is most likely to benefit from supplementation?”. Let me summarize each of the points using folic acid as the example.

 

Poor Diet: It only makes sense that those people who are deficient in folate from foods are the most likely to benefit from folic acid supplementation. Think about it for a minute. Would you really expect people who are already getting plenty of folate from their diet to obtain additional benefits from folic acid supplementation?

The NIH estimates that around 20% of US women of childbearing age are deficient in folic acid. For other segments of our population, dietary folate insufficiency ranges from 5-10%. Yet, most studies of folic acid supplementation lump everyone together – even though 80-95% of the US population is already getting enough folate through foods, food fortification, and supplementation. It is no wonder most studies fail to find a beneficial effect of folic acid supplementation.

The authors of the meta-analysis I discussed above said that the beneficial effects of folic acid they saw might have been influenced by a very large Chinese study, because a much higher percentage of Chinese are deficient in folic acid. They went on to say that the Chinese study needed to be repeated in this country.

In fact, the US study has already been done. A large study called “The Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE)” study reported that folic acid supplementation did not reduce heart disease risk in the whole population. However, when the study focused on the subgroup of subjects who were folate-deficient at the beginning of the study, folic acid supplementation significantly decreased their risk of heart attack and cardiovascular death.  This would seem to suggest using supplements for cardiovascular health is a good idea.

Increased Need: There are many factors that increase the need for certain nutrients. However, for the sake of simplicity, let’s only focus on medications. Medications that interfere with folic acid metabolism include anticonvulsants, metformin (used to treat diabetes), methotrexate and sulfasalazine (used to treat severe inflammation), birth control pills, and some diuretics. Use of these medications is not a concern when the diet is adequate. However, when you combine medication use with a folate-deficient diet, health risks are increased and supplementation with folic acid is more likely to be beneficial.

Genetic Predisposition: The best known genetic defect affecting folic acid metabolism is MTHFR. MTHFR deficiency does not mean you have a specific need for methylfolate. However, it does increase your need for folic acid. Again, this is not a concern when the diet is adequate. However, when you combine MTHFR deficiency with a folate-deficient diet, health risks are increased and supplementation with folic acid is more likely to be beneficial. I cover this topic in great detail in my upcoming book, “Slaying The Supplement Myths”. In the meantime, you might wish to view my video, “The Truth About Methyl Folate.”

Diseases: An underlying disease or predisposition to disease often increases the need for one or more nutrients that help reduce disease risk. The best examples of this are two major studies on the effect of vitamin E on heart disease risk in women. Both studies found no effect of vitamin E on heart disease risk in the whole population. However, one study reported that vitamin E reduced heart disease risk in the subgroup of women who were post-menopausal (when the risk of heart disease skyrockets). The other study found that vitamin E reduced heart attack risk in the subgroup of women who had pre-existing heart disease at the beginning of the study.

Finally, if you look at the diagram closely, you will notice a red circle in the middle. When two or three of these factors overlap, that is the “sweet spot” where supplementation is almost certain to make a difference and it may be a good idea to use supplements for cardiovascular health.

Is This A Question Of “Garbage In, Garbage Out”?

supplements for cardiovascular health garbage in outUnfortunately, most clinical studies focus on the “Does everyone benefit from supplementation question?” rather than the “Who benefits from supplementation?” question.

In addition, most clinical studies of supplementation are based on the drug model. They are studying supplementation with a single vitamin or mineral, as if it were a drug. That’s unfortunate, because vitamins and minerals work together synergistically. What we need are more studies of holistic supplementation approaches.

Until these two things change, most supplement studies are doomed to failure. They are doomed to give negative results. In addition, meta-analyses based on these faulty supplement studies will fall victim to what computer programmers refer to as “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. If the data going into the analysis is faulty, the data coming out of the study will be equally faulty. It won’t be worth the paper it is written on. If you are looking for personal guidance on supplementation, this study falls into that category.

 

Should We Use Supplements For Cardiovascular Health?

 

If you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for everyone, this meta-analysis is clear. Folic acid may decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease. A B complex supplement may decrease the risk of stroke. All the other supplements they included in their analysis did not decrease heart disease risk, but the analysis did not include vitamin E and/or omega-3s.

However, if you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for you, this study provides no guidance. It did not ask the right questions.

I would be remiss, however, if I failed to point out that we know healthy diets can decrease heart disease risk. In the words of the authors: “The recent science-based report of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, also concerned with [heart disease] risk reduction, recommended 3 dietary patterns: 1) a healthy American diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and meat, but high in fruits and vegetables; 2) a Mediterranean diet; and 3) a vegetarian diet. These diets, with their accompanying recommendations, continue the move towards more plant-based diets…” I cover the effect of diet on heart disease risk in detail in my book, “Slaying The Food Myths”.

 

The Bottom Line

 

You have probably seen the recent headlines proclaiming: “Vitamin and Mineral Supplements Don’t Lower Heart Disease Risk.” The study behind the headlines was a meta-analysis of 127 randomized control trials looking at the effect of supplementation on heart disease risk and mortality.

  • The headlines qualify as “fake news” because:
    • The study found that folic acid decreased stroke and heart disease risk, and B vitamins decreased stroke risk. Somehow the headlines forgot to mention that.
    • The study found that multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C had no effect on heart disease risk. These are nutrients that were unlikely to decrease heart disease risk to begin with.
    • The study did not include vitamin E and omega-3s. These are nutrients that are likely to decrease heart disease risk when the studies are done properly.
  • The authors of the study stated that a major weakness of their study was that that randomized control studies included in their analysis were short term, whereas longer duration studies might be required to fully capture chronic disease risk.
  • The study behind the headlines is of little use for you as an individual because it asked the wrong question.
  • Most clinical studies focus on the “Does everyone benefit from supplementation question?” That is the wrong question. Instead we need more clinical studies focused on the “Who benefits from supplementation?” question. I discuss that question in more detail in the article above.
  • In addition, most clinical studies of supplementation are based on the drug model. They are studying supplementation with a single vitamin or mineral, as if it were a drug. That’s unfortunate, because vitamins and minerals work together synergistically. What we need are more studies of holistic supplementation approaches.
  • Until these two things change, most supplement studies are doomed to failure. They are doomed to give negative results. In addition, meta-analyses based on these faulty supplement studies will fall victim to what computer programmers refer to as “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. If the data going into the analysis is faulty, the data coming out of the study will be equally faulty. It won’t be worth the paper it is written on. If you are looking for personal guidance on supplementation, this study falls into that category.
  • If you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for everyone, this study is clear. Folic acid may decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease. A B-complex supplement may decrease the risk of stroke. All the other supplements they included in their analysis did not decrease heart disease risk, but they did not include vitamin E and/or omega-3s in their analysis.
  • If you want to know whether supplements decrease heart disease risk for you, this study provides no guidance. It did not ask the right questions.
  • However, we do know that healthy, plant-based diets can decrease heart disease risk. I cover heart healthy diets in detail in my book, “Slaying The Food Myths.”

 

For more details, read the article above.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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