Alarming Trends: The Surge in Additives in American Foods, Says New Study

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A recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reveals concerning trends of additives in American food consumption.

Lead investigator Dr. Elizabeth Dunford and her team found that nearly 60% of food products purchased by Americans contain additives, which is a 10% increase from levels reported in 2001.

Why Are There Additives in American Food?

These additives are commonly used to enhance color, flavor, sweetness, and preservation in processed foods. While they serve the purpose of extending shelf life and improving food texture, there is growing evidence linking the high consumption of processed foods with adverse health outcomes.

For instance, recent research suggests that nanoparticles in popular food coloring may cause digestive issues and impairment, raising concerns about the potential health impacts of these additives.

Furthermore, British food additive expert Erik Millstone has highlighted the potential toxicity of some additives and their possible association with tumor development in humans. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asserts that they regularly monitor food additives, ensuring they meet safety standards backed by scientific evidence.

To arrive at these findings, researchers analyzed Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel data spanning from 2001 to 2019, where participants used handheld scanners to record product codes on their food items.

The study revealed that American consumers purchase over 400,000 different packaged food and beverage products annually, with the average number of additives per product increasing from 3.7 in 2001 to 4.5 in 2019.

The study also identified a notable 22% increase in the purchase of ultra-processed baby foods containing additives. However, there was a silver lining as it showed a decrease in the use of flavor additives in sodas.

The study’s senior investigator, Dr. Barry Popkin, pointed out that these findings reflect an increasing demand for transparency in food labels and brands among Americans. He hopes that policymakers will utilize this data to address the exposure of additives, especially among babies, and to monitor the evolving landscape of packaged foods.

Past research has suggested that diets heavily reliant on ultra-processed foods could lead to serious health issues such as dementia, cancer, and depression. A 2019 French study even linked a 10% increase in ultra-processed food consumption to a 14% higher risk of early death.

Dr. Dunford, the lead investigator, hopes that her study will serve as a foundation for further investigations into the types and quantities of ingredients used in baby food production in the United States.

She emphasizes the need for continued research to ensure the safety and well-being of newborns and all consumers faced with a growing prevalence of additives in their diets.


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