Research Outline

Food Additives/Preservatives Safety


To gather information on food additives/preservatives safety, including the common additives/preservatives that are harmful to human health, the type of products that have the highest levels of each, how the acceptable levels of additives/preservatives are determined (per serving/volume per day, week, or month/total %recommended daily intake). impact/risk of consumption over time, impact/risk of different product consumption with the same additives/preservatives, and websites or apps that help the general population to understand the amount of each in products and their eating patterns. The information will be used understand the research done on health implications and the resources to help the general population make more informed choices.

Early Findings

Most Harmful Additives/Preservatives and Products that Contain Them

  • According to nutrition experts, these food additives should be avoided:
    • Aspartame. This is a low-calorie, artificial sweetener found in low-calorie food and drinks, gums, sugar-free candy, and some medications. Its consumption has been linked to a greater risk of developing heart disease, glucose intolerance, diabetes, and stroke. This substance may also increase appetite "by disrupting the signaling process that usually occurs when a person eats foods with more calories." Other risks include headaches, dizziness, seizures, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, lupus, and congenital disabilities.
    • High-fructose corn syrup. It is a "highly processed sweetener produced from corn." It is found in common products such as ketchup, yogurt, salad dressings, juice, canned fruits, bread, cereal, granola bars, and/or ice-cream. Its consumption "has been linked to insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure."
    • Trans-fats. These added fats are artificially created using a reaction catalyst. These have been linked to an increase of cholesterol (LDL) and a decrease of good cholesterol (HDL), higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. They are commonly found in pastries, frostings, crackers, and microwave popcorn, and margarine.
    • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). This is a food additive that is used to enhance flavors. This substance has been linked to obesity, Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, metabolic disorders, neurotoxic effects, as well as the affectation of reproductive organs. This additive is commonly found in fast food, chips and snacks, seasoning blends, frozen meals, and canned soups or soup mixes.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics warns about these food additives, which cause greater harm in children:
    • Bisphenols (like BPA)- These interfere with puberty and fertility. They are mostly "found in the lining of food and soda cans."
    • Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs). These can lead to low-birthweight babies, problems with the immune system, the thyroid, and fertility. They are commonly found in grease-proof paper, cardboard packaging, and nonstick pans.
    • Perchlorate. It interferes with thyroid function and early brain development. It is commonly found in some dry food packaging and drinking water.
    • Artificial food colors. These increase symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They are found in products targeted for children.
    • Nitrates and nitrites (Food preservatives and color enhancers). These interfere with the thyroid, with the blood’s ability to provide oxygen to the body, and can increase the risk of some cancers. "They are commonly found in processed foods, especially meats."