Preservatives may be described as man-made or natural chemicals that serve as antimicrobial agents to prevent bacteria, mould and yeast from forming. They also prevent foods from spoiling by extending their shelf life. In an age when refrigerators had not been invented, people smoked their meats to preserve them. Most of the packaged foods available today have some kind of man-made chemical preserving agent to prevent them from going bad. Some commonly used preservatives include sorbates (200-203), benzoates (210-218) and sulphites (220-228).
Nitrosamines and nitrosamides are used to preserve food, but in small quantities. According to the Cancer Council of New South Wales, Australia, the risk of botulism caused by harmful bacteria is higher than the risk of developing cancer from the small quantities of nitrates used. Sulphites and benzoates are used as food preservatives and can be dangerous, and possibly cancer-causing when consumed in larger than normal quantities. These agents are found in non-cola soft drinks, cordials, orange juice and sausages. According to the National Institute of Environment Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, a high consumption of processed meats preserved with nitrates may increase the risk of stomach cancers.
Foods preserved with sulphites may trigger possible asthma symptoms that include wheezing. The risk is higher in people who have a history of respiratory problems. Sulphites are used to preserve wine, dried fruits, shrimp and pickled foods. In the United States, customers began filing complaints of allergic reactions soon after consuming fruits and vegetables that had been preserved with sulphites. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of sulphites in all fresh produce except potatoes in 2004.
Monosodium glutamate, more commonly referred to as MSG, is a preservative used in the enhancement of food flavours. It is used in canned soups, vegetables and processed meats and is a common ingredient in Chinese cooking. There have been complaints of headaches, nausea, vomiting, weakness and redness of the skin by people who have consumed foods containing MSG. According to research conducted by Yuko Nakanishi that was published in the "Journal of Autoimmunity" in 2008, MSG may be the cause of obesity, diabetes and inflammation associated with autoimmune problems.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder relates to problems with overactivity, inattentiveness, impulsivity or a combination of these problems. There have been mixed findings regarding food preservatives and deficit hyperactivity disorder. Doctors sometimes prescribe a preservative-free diet for children with ADHD problems. Researchers have voiced suspicions that the cause of the disorder may be linked to preservatives like monosodium glutamate and benzoate nitrates. There has not been definitive proof that preservatives can cause the disorder or make it worse.
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