The Harmful Effects of Food Additives and Preservatives: What You Need to Know

September 12, 2021

For many years now, doctors and other medical experts have informed the public about the harmful effects of food additives and preservatives. But if you don’t know what to look for, it can be hard (and frankly overwhelming) to try to avoid them.

So, to make it a bit easier, I’ve broken down what food preservatives are and why you want to steer clear of them. Then, keep reading for a list of the top food preservatives to avoid so you know how to better protect yourself and your family.


The Harmful Effects of Food Additives and Preservatives

While the art of preserving foods has been around for hundreds of years, the simple truth of the matter is that we’ve evolved from using salt and sugar as a means of preserving foods to using chemicals that are known to have harmful effects on the human body.

While food preservation is good in theory—after all they keep our foods from spoiling, which can cause food poisoning and other serious health effects—the use of certain antibacterial agents has been approved for “moderate consumption,” despite the fact that they’re known to cause major health implications.

In fact, numerous studies have confirmed the harmful effects of food additives and preservatives by highlighting a strong link between certain food preservatives and immunosuppression, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer. [1]

Meanwhile, other food preservatives have been shown to disrupt metabolic function, leading to an increased risk of diabetes. [2]

Finally, another review published in 2017 confirmed that the toxicological analysis of food additives generally rely on their potential toxicity to specific organs such as the liver and kidneys. As a result, little to no attention is paid to the harmful effects of food additives and preservatives on your immune system cells.

Their findings? Consuming high amounts of processed foods (i.e., foods with chemical preservatives) predisposed people to develop both metabolic syndrome and obesity by instigating immune-mediated metabolic dysregulation and causing chronic inflammation! [3]

So, what’s the takeaway here? While it’s unrealistic to expect that we can avoid all processed and chemically preserved foods, there are certainly measures you can take to limit your intake of them.

How? Focus on eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in organic whole foods that don’t require the use of preservatives.

To get started, check out this article, which offers a great starting point. You can also check out my book, Total Health Turnaround, which offers a breakdown of the top whole foods to consume to support not only adrenal health but overall health.

But what do you do in those times when you’re more limited in your choices, such as during times of travel?

My best piece of advice is to avoid harmful effects of food additives and preservatives is to begin by identifying a few of the top food preservatives to avoid—those shown to have the most potential for generating harmful effects.

Keep reading to get my list, so you have a solid idea of what to look for on your food labels.

10 of the Top Food Preservatives to Avoid

If you’re looking to avoid harmful effects of food additives and preservatives but need a solid starting point, check any food labels for these ingredients. If you see them, do NOT buy that product and look for something else.

1. Sodium nitrate—commonly used in processed meats such as bacon, deli meats, and turkey.

2. TBHQ—used to keep certain oils and fats from becoming rancid.

3. Sulfites—commonly found in baked goods, mixes, jellies/jams, chips, canned vegetables, and more. Basically, they’re almost everywhere.

4. BHA/BHT—used in snack foods, certain meats, butter, gum, and grain products such as rice.

5. Propylene glycol—found in seasonings, dressings, mixes, sodas, alcoholic beverages, and more.

6. MSG—commonly found in fast food, snack foods, soups, condiments, meats, and more. This is another ingredient that is hard to avoid if you’re eating anything prepackaged.

7. rBGH—found in standard dairy products such as milk and yogurt. You can avoid this by consuming nut-based dairy alternatives instead.

8. Sodium benzoate—used to preserve wine, fruit juices, pickles, sauces, dressings, condiments, and more.

9. Carrageenan—commonly found in dairy-based foods such as ice cream, whipped cream, dairy alternatives, meats, soups, and more.

10. Chlorine dioxide—found in drinking water and on produce.


Harmful effects of food additives and preservatives - Dr. Pingel


Now that you have a basic understanding of the harmful effects of food additives and preservatives and where some of these chemicals are hiding in your food, you have the knowledge to take control of your health in a whole new way.

Make a copy of this list to keep with you the next time you visit your local grocery store. If you buy produce from a farmer’s market, don’t be afraid to ask what your local farmers put on their produce.

By taking the necessary steps to avoid the harmful effects of food additives and preservatives, you’re setting yourself up for a lifeftime of better health!

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