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By Dr. Mercola
Once you start reading labels, you will find that they are everywhere.
The best way to avoid toxic chemical additives is to eat only fresh, whole foods.
But in practical terms, this can be difficult for many people to do, at least 100 percent of the time. Chances are, despite your best efforts, you will eat one or two processed foods at any point in your diet.
So it's good to know which of the thousands of chemical additives are the most dangerous and which you should avoid at all costs when identifying it on a food label.
A recently published article on One Green Planet1 highlights eight particularly harmful ingredients that you and your kids are probably eating. There seems to be a good consensus on the worst of the worst, as seven of them were also nicknamed "Scary Seven" 2 by Andrea Donsky of Naturally Savvy.
If you notice any of these on a food label, quickly put it back on the shelf. While I agree with all of the One Green Planet options, here I have selected what I consider to be the worst ingredients found in processed foods.
Studies have shown that trying something sweet increases hunger, regardless of calories, and consuming artificial sweeteners has been shown to cause more weight gain than consuming sugar.
Aspartame appears to have the most pronounced effect, but the same is true for other artificial sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium, sucralose, and saccharin. Unfortunately, weight gain is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health risks of artificial sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners increase the risk of diabetes. A recent study in the journal Nature3 told us why — they negatively alter your gut microbiome. For example, the best-selling artificial sweetener Splenda (sucralose) can destroy up to 50 percent of your beneficial intestinal flora.4
It has long been known that taking sucralose can cause or aggravate inflammatory bowel disease because it interferes with gastrointestinal function.5
Studies in animals and humans have shown that Splenda alters the function of glucose and insulin, thus promoting weight gain, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
But there are other concerns that sucralose can cause DNA damage, and when heated it releases chloropropanols, which are members of an extremely dangerous class of carcinogens called dioxins.6 Artificial sweeteners are a group of chemical additives that should be avoided entirely. .
Trans Fats and Vegetable Oils
Since trans fats were introduced in 1911, "Crisco" trans fat has been implicated in numerous serious health problems. First of all, they promote inflammation, which is a landmark for most chronic diseases.
Trans fats also interfere with basic cell membrane function, which can pave the way for cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Trans fats can dramatically increase your risk of stroke. A 2010 study involving postmenopausal women found a 30 percent higher incidence of ischemic strokes among women whose daily trans fat intake was the highest.7
While trans fats are widely recognized as harmful and are being largely phased out, many restaurants are reverting to the use of synthetic vegetable oils, which can further exacerbate the problem due to the large amounts in which they are now consumed.
Hydrogenated vegetable oils are present in most processed foods, including cookies, potato chips, fried foods, and many others. People in the United States today eat more than 100,000 times more vegetable oils than they did in the early 20th century — vegetable oils now account for seven to eight percent of all calories consumed.