Food preservatives are chemical substances that are added to many different types of food to keep them fresh and inhibit microbe growth. There are generally three kinds of preservatives: antimicrobials that slow down the growth of microorganisms, antioxidants that inhibit the oxidation of air by lipids and fats, and chemicals that inhibit the natural development of processes of enzymes that occur in foods after they have been harvested. Problems associated with food preservatives include cancer, hypersensitivity, toxic reactions, ADHD, and lung disease.
There are concerns of certain types of food preservatives being linked to cancer, particularly nitrites and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA). Nitrites prevent the growth of botulism causing bacteria and serve as a color enhancement for processed meat and fish. Nitrites react with amines and amides and create nitrosamines and nitrosamides, which have been identified as carcinogens. BHA is a phenolic antioxidant that prevents the oils and fats from becoming rancid. High levels of BHA cause tumors in some laboratory animals.
Sulfites act as antioxidants and prevent light-colored produce from losing their color and prevent bacteria growth in wine. Sulfites have been shown to cause hypersensitivity in some individuals. Some people such as those with asthma or many allergies have allergic reactions to sulfites. The most common reported symptom of an allergic reaction to sulfates is having difficulty breathing. Other common issues include hives, stomach pain and anaphylactic shock.
Butylated hydroxtoluene (BHT) is a phenolic antioxidant that prevents food fats and oils from rotting. The substance may cause toxic reactions with other substances. An example is it increased toxicity in animal studies when consumed after the consumption of carcinogens and mutagens.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
According to The Medical News, preservatives may contribute to the development of ADHD in children. Many parents and educators believe that food and beverages containing preservatives have negative consequences on the behavior of some children. The results of a clinical trial where preservatives were eliminated from the diet of children with ADHD showed that is should be a standard treatment procedure of the disorder. Research also showed that children that were not typically hyperactive had significant levels of hyperactivity after the consumption of foods containing preservatives.
According to an observational study that took place in 2006, individuals who consume cured meats containing nitrites on a regular basis are more likely to develop lung disease symptoms. Nitrites are added meat to prevent oils and fats from being coming rancid, improve the color of the meat and retain the flavor. The results of animal studies reveal that nitrites can create reactive types of nitrogen that may cause negative effects on the lungs such as modifications in the structure of the organ.