Are the essences in your food causing health problems? Tejasvi Desai tells you what you can do about it
Artificial extracts, essences and flavours are prepared by bringing various synthetic flavouring agents into solution with alcohol, glycerol or propylene glycol to formulate an extract, essence or flavour with the likeness of the flavour of the fruit, spirit or liqueur for which it is named. These preparations cover a wide range of flavours including vanilla, lemon, lime, banana, cherry, butterscotch, brandy and rum.
All food consists of natural chemicals. For example, an apple contains over 1,000 natural flavouring chemicals, some of which are known to cause health problems for some people in large doses. Chemically, there isn’t much difference between the list of chemicals in a real strawberry or in artificial strawberry flavour. It’s the size of the dose that matters. While few of us are affected by the food chemicals in one strawberry, when consumers (especially children) consume concentrated doses of some of the chemicals above and particularly if they consume them several times daily in different foods, they can be affected in a variety of ways. The effects can bring about a change in behaviour too.
Artificial essences sometimes induce headaches or migraines, rashes, stomach aches, bloating, constipation, bedwetting, asthma, frequent coughs and colds, a stuffy or runny nose, ear infections, joint pain and swelling of the joints.
Changes in behaviour become apparent such as sleep disturbance, night terrors, restless legs, being easily distracted or bored, being demanding or irritable (touchy or easily annoyed, losing temper, throwing tantrums), oppositional defiance, temper outbursts, defying rules and periods of either anxiety or unhappiness.
Effects of food additives are difficult to source, largely due to the time delay before they become obvious as reactions can occur up to three days later. It is possible to avoid them by avoiding highly processed foods. Stick with the doses provided in nature; you can add fresh strawberries to plain yoghurt or choose products with low or no flavours. Organic products are the safest. If you’re sensitive to the smallest amounts of food chemicals — including those in unprocessed natural foods, you should avoid higher salicylate fruit flavours such as oranges.