Seven Food Additives You Should Avoid

Either by walking through the grocery store or reviewing items in your cabinet, chances are you will find a food additive. These typically do not add any nutritional benefit to the food product but are instead used to enhance the products, flavor, texture, appearance, and shelf life

While some of these compounds do not negatively affect the body, some of these additives have been associated with adverse health effects and should be avoided.

In this article, we will review seven food additives you should avoid and their associated adverse effects. *

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Monosodium Glutamate, also known as MSG, is a common food additive used to enhance flavors of savory dishes. MSG is commonly used in Chinese and Asian food, as well as an assortment of packaged foods. For a disguise, MSG may be labeled as hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed acid, yeast extract, or natural flavors.

MSG appears to affect people in different ways; some people will experience headaches, sweating, and numbness, and others may not experience any effects at all.

Researchers have investigated may of MGS’s effects.

In many animal studies, MSG was found to be an endocrine disruptor by decreasing insulin sensitivity, promoting weight gain, and encouraging diabetes-like characteristics [1] [2] [3] [4] [5], and human studies have noted the same effects [6] [7] [8] [9].

In a 1997 study, researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study to investigate the adverse effects of MSG [9]. The researchers noted 36.1% of the participants adversely reacted the MSG, with consequences including the following: headache, muscle tightness, numbness/tingling, general weakness, and flushing [9].

In a 2013 study, researchers investigated the headache-inducing effects of MSG [10]. In the survey, 57% of the participants experienced a headache, and upon further investigation, researchers found that MSG induced sensitization of the masseter muscle [the muscle that moves the jaw].

With this research, a percentage of humans do have a sensitivity to MSG. Therefore, it is recommended that it is excluded from food intake.

Artificial Food Coloring

Artificial food colorings are chemicals that appear in different colors and are used to improve the appearance of many foods and candies.

In a 2012 study, researchers noted that Red 3 causes cancer in animals, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 have been contaminated with various carcinogens, and Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 cause hypersensitivity reactions [11].

In a 2004 study, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of double-blind, placebo-controlled trials and noted these chemicals could induce neurobehavioral toxicity in humans and promote hyperactivity in children [12]. In a 2010 study, researchers conducted a similar investigation and found that some children were more susceptible to the effects of these chemicals [13].

In a 1994 study, researchers noted that the presence of food preservatives and artificial food colorings in their diet might play a significant role in the etiology of ADHD in children [14].

Since many studies have noted supplementary conclusions, it is best to eliminate artificial food colorings from food intake. Nonetheless, most of these dyes are additives in processed foods that do not belong in a healthy diet. Whole foods, which offer more exceptional nutrients, are naturally free of such chemicals.

Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite

Sodium nitrate, which has one more oxygen atom than sodium nitrite, is converted to sodium nitrite in the digestive system, so both are effectively the same thing. Further, when nitrites are exposed to high heat – think during cooking – they can convert to nitrosamines, which is a compound that can have many adverse effects on health.

Processed meat producers add this preservative to their meat to prevent bacteria growth, enhance flavor, and color the meat in a pinkish hue.

However, researchers have noted that sodium nitrate has cancer-inducing properties.

In a 2006 systematic review, researchers examined the relationship between nitrite and nitrosamine intake and gastric cancer (GC) [15].

Researchers concluded their study by noting, “The available evidence supports a positive association between nitrite and nitrosamine intake and GC [and] between meat and processed meat intake and GC and OC [esophageal cancer]” [15].

A 2011 study found that a “high intake of red and processed meat is associated with significantly increased risk of colorectal, colon and rectal cancers” [16].

A 2018 study found that the “consumption of processed meat … may increase the risk of breast cancer” [17].

A 2018 meta-analysis found that “processed meat may be positively associated with bladder cancer risk” [18].

Therefore, it is recommended that sodium nitrite and processed meats are not included in one’s food intake. However, if processed meats are essential, look for meats that do not contain sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Because of government corn subsidies, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an extremely cheap sweetener for manufacturers and is used in a wide array of food and drink products.

At its basic level, HFCS is dense in a type of simple sugar called fructose, which can cause an array of health problems, with weight gain and diabetes being the most noted.

In a 2009 study, researchers had participants drink a liquid that was sweetened with either glucose or fructose for ten weeks [19]. At the end of the study, the fructose-sweetened beverage caused participants in that group to have significant increases in belly fat, increases in blood sugar levels, and decreased insulin sensitivity, when compared to the glucose-sweetened beverage [19].

In a 2013 study, researchers noted that HFCS beverage intake was associated with higher triglyceride levels [20].

In a 2018 study, researchers noted that a maternal diet high in HFCS contributed to the genetic programming of obesity for the child [21].

Some studies have noted that HFCS can induce inflammation [22] [23], which contributed to many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes [24].

Moreover, drinks that contain HFCS are empty calories that do not contribute to one’s required daily nutritional intake. Therefore, HFCS should not be included in anyone’s diet.

Artificial Sweeteners

No Sugar does not mean Healthy. Generally, manufacturers add synthetic chemicals that have a sweet taste to make up for the lack of sugar, and these chemicals have adverse health effects.

The most common types of synthetic sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, which can be found in yellow, blue, and pink packets, respectively.

While these sweeteners may reduce the calorie count of the product, they have been linked to increased weight gain and obesity.

In a 2009 study, researchers noted that “daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 36% greater relative risk of incident metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater relative risk of incident type 2 diabetes compared with nonconsumption for metabolic syndrome and for type 2 diabetes” [25].

In a 2012 study, researchers found drinking sugar-sweetened beverages resulted in reduced weight gain when compared to drinking sugar-free drinks [26]. Also, in a 2013 study, researchers found there is no consistent reduction of weight gain through consuming sucralose-sweetened beverages when compared to sugar-sweetened beverages [27].

In a 2013 study, researchers investigated the metabolic effects of sucralose in humans [28]. The researchers noted that when compared to pure water, sucralose ingestion caused 1) more considerable incremental increase in peak plasma glucose concentrations, 2) a 20% greater progressive increase in insulin, 3) a 22% greater peak insulin secretion rate, 4) a 7% decrease in insulin clearance, and 5) a 23% decrease in insulin sensitivity [28].

Sucralose has also been found to disrupt the balance and diversity of gut microbiota, by disproportionately lowering levels of beneficial bacteria, which increases the overall percentage of harmful bacteria. These effects were not even rectified three months after discontinued use [29] [30] [31] [32].

Further, in a rat study, the animal’s body reacted to sucralose the same way as if it was given a poisonous substance [33].

In a 1990 study, scientists found that long-term exposure to sucralose could lead to bowel enlargement, kidney mineralization, and changes to pelvic tissue [34].

Concerning aspartame, research has found that the synthetic sweetener is associated with an overabundance of health issues, including declined kidney function, decreased insulin sensitivity, increase brain oxidative stress, neurological dysfunction, several cancers, mental disorders, and leukemia [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44].

If sugar consumption is an issue, look for a product that is naturally sweetened with stevia, monk fruit, honey, or xylitol. Plus, many of these natural sweeteners have side benefits [45]. 

Healthmasters offers these sugar alternatives.

Sodium Benzoate

Sodium benzoate is a common additive that is added to carbonated drinks and acidic foods that contain vinegar, such as salad dressings, pickles, and condiments.

Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sodium benzoate registered as generally recognized as safe, several studies have illuminated the potential adverse effects of the compound [46].

In a 2004 double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers found that combining sodium benzoate with artificial food colorings resulted in hyperactive behavior in children [47].

In a 2014 study that included 475 college students, researchers noted that sodium benzoate-rich beverage intake was significantly associated with ADHD-related symptoms [48].

Moreover, when sodium benzoate is combined with vitamin C, a chemical reaction occurs, and benzene is produced, which is known to have cancer-inducing effects [49] [50].

Carbonated beverages contain the most significant concentrations of benzene, and diet and sugar-free beverages more efficiently promote benzene production [50].

In a 2003 study, researchers found benzene in many foods at various levels, such as 190-ppb in fully cooked ground beef and 100-ppb in cola, which is much higher than the 5-ppb set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water [51].

Therefore, it is recommended that people avoid foods that contain ingredients like benzoic acid, benzene, or benzoate, especially if it is combined with a vitamin C source, such as citric acid or ascorbic acid.

Trans Fat

Trans fats are a kind of highly processed unsaturated fat that has undergone hydrogenation, which helps to increase shelf life and improve the consistency of products. Trans fats can be found in a wide array of products, including baked goods, microwave popcorn, biscuits, and margarine.

Trans fats can also be listed under partially or fully hydrogenated oils, trans-unsaturated fatty acids, or trans fatty acids.

Because of the mass amount of research condemning trans fats because of its wide array of associated adverse health effects, the FDA has revoked its generally recognized as safe status [52].

Many studies have liked the consumption of trans fats to stark increases in cardiovascular disease risk [53] [54] [55].

For example, in a 2009 study, researchers found that the consumption of trans-fatty acids from partially hydrogenated oils adversely affects multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors and contributes significantly to increased risk of coronary heart disease events [56].

Studies have also associated these fats to increased inflammation.

In a 2006 study, researchers noted that the consumption of hydrogenated oil is associated with systemic inflammation and endothelial dysfunction [57].

In a 2001 study that included 84,941 female participants, researchers noted that a high intake of trans fats was associated with a 40% greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes [59].

Many studies have noted these same effects [58] [60] [61] [62] [63].

Trans fats are perhaps one of the unhealthiest substances a human could ingest, so they should be avoided altogether.


In this article, we reviewed seven toxic food additives that be avoided. Each of these additives affects the human body negatively, either by promoting weight gain and inflammation or inducing cognitive dysfunction and harmful activity. Therefore, it is essential that food labels are read and products that contain these ingredients are avoided. Remember, whole, unprocessed foods are always the safest bet, as they do not contain these toxic additives.

If you have questions about any of Healthmasters’ products, check out Healthmasters’ Basic Healthy Lifestyle Kit or call our office at 800.726.1834.


































































* This article is for informational purposes only. By providing the information herein, Healthmasters and its associates are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any disease or medical condition. Before beginning any natural, integrative, or conventional treatment or regime, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare profes