Newsletter 08, May 2007
This issue of the Good Diet Good Health Newsletter includes...
- E-numbers - how dangerous are these food additives?
- How to avoid the biggest weight loss scam currently on the Internet
- Latest recipes released in the Low Carb / Low GI Cookbook
- Did you know?
- Your successes, requests and questions
- Tell us what you think
- Visit our newsletter archive
1) E-numbers - how dangerous are these food additives?
The E-number system was originally used in the European Union in order to regulate the use of substances added to processed foods and drinks to colour them, flavour them, change their texture or enhance their keeping qualities. Additives were given a unique number and those which were approved for use were prefixed by 'E'. Since then the numbering system has been adopted internationally, but only the European countries use the 'E' prefix.
Most food additives are considered by the authorities to be safe, although some are known to be cancer-producing or bad for you in other ways. Countries do not always agree on whether a certain additive is dangerous or not, hence some additives are banned in some countries but not in others.
Additives are numbered according to their main purpose as shown below:
- E100 - E199 (colours)
- E200 - E299 (preservatives)
- E300 - E399 (antioxidants, acidity regulators)
- E400 - E499 (thickeners, stabilizers, emulsifiers)
- E500 - E599 (acidity regulators, anti-caking agents)
- E600 - E699 (flavour enhancers)
- E900 - E999 (miscellaneous)
- E1000 - E1999 (additional chemicals)
Although there are several thousand additives in use, they are not all synthetic substances. We should bear in mind that food additives such as salt, sugar and vinegar have been used to preserve foods for centuries. However, the number of additives in our food and drink has exploded in the last thirty years as processed food has changed from a rare to a major component of our diet. It is this overall load which is probably of most concern.
So if an additive has been approved, it's OK, isn't it? Well, not exactly. Some approved additives have been linked with hyperactivity (ADHD) in children. Others have been linked with allergic or sensitivity reactions, asthma and migraines.
The additives that are generally considered to be the most troublesome are:
The nitrates and nitrites (E249 - 252) are potentially carcinogenic (cancer producing). They produce the characteristic flavour of bacon and ham which cannot be produced any other way, so unfortunately these preservatives are difficult to ban.
The benzoates (E210 - 219) can cause sensitivity problems such as urticaria or hives and asthma in people who are also sensitive to aspirin and / or tartazine (E102).
The sulphites, metabisulphites and sulphur dioxide (E220 - 227) can trigger asthma attacks due to their irritant effect on the airways. They are often found in cold drinks, fruit juice concentrates and wine, dried fruits especially apricots and sprayed on salads.
Synthetic phenolic antioxidants BHA and BHT (E320 and 321) can trigger asthma, rhinitis and urticaria or hives.
Emulsifiers, stabilizers and thickeners
E430, E433 and E435 are particularly suspected of being carcinogens.
The synthetic colours known as azo-dyes such as tartazine (E102), sunset yellow (E110) and amaranth (E123) are known for causing sensitivity reactions such as urticaria or hives and asthma, especially in children. Excess amounts of food colourings and sodium benzoate preservatives are particularly linked with hyperactivity (ADHD) in children.
The most important and widely used flavour enhancer is monosodium glutamate, or MSG. Well known for producing 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome', the symptoms of which range from tightness in the chest and palpitations to faintness, flushing, sweating, headache and low blood pressure, MSG is now believed to be an endocrine disrupter. This means that it can upset the body's endocrine (hormonal) system. The long term effects on all aspects of health that this could have are potentially far worse than 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome' and for this reason particularly disturbing. MSG is also reported to trigger attacks in some asthmatics.
Unfortunately, the additive-labelling system is not infallible. Certain categories of products are exempt, such as alcoholic drinks, food and drink served in catering establishments, and medicines. Food sold without wrapping such as cheese, delicatessen items and bread may also be exempt, even though they are likely to contain additives. Even with labelled food, manufacturers may not be required to list all the substances that came already added to the ingredients.
Some categories of additives such as flavourings do not have to be listed on labels either. They have never been tested for safety, and the assumption that they are safe relies upon the fact that they are used in very small quantities. However, anyone eating large amounts of confectionery or candy, soft drinks and processed snacks is likely to get a much higher dose.
Unless we know we have problems with specific additives as individuals, we might think that there is no need to worry about them. However, very little is known about the cumulative effects of the thousands of chemicals to which we are exposed in our daily lives, whether we take them in via our food or drink, or via our skin and lungs. We can't prevent this onslaught upon our body's detoxification systems (primarily our liver and kidneys) unless we opt out of modern living. But common sense tells us that we can reduce our risks by avoiding added chemicals whenever we can. So next time you are in the supermarket, compare the labels of processed foods and select the brands with the least additives. Or better still, buy the ingredients, in as unprocessed a form as possible, and make your own low-additive meals.
2) How to avoid the biggest weight loss scam currently on the Internet - Hoodia
Hoodia has hardly been out of the news recently. It's also everywhere you look on the Internet. So what is it?
Hoodia is a plant which looks like a cactus but is actually a succulent and comes from the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. The San Bushmen of the Kalahari have used a particular species of Hoodia, Hoodia gordonii, as an appetite suppressant for thousands of years. South African scientists tested the plant and discovered that it contained a previously unknown molecule which has since been christened P57. P57 has been shown to be an effective appetite suppressant and has no known side-effects, although clinical trials are ongoing.
Here's how P57 works: when you eat, nerve cells in your brain that sense the rising glucose in your blood start firing, and you feel full. The P57 molecule acts on the nerve cells in the same way, fooling your brain into believing you are full.
But the P57 molecule is only found in Hoodia gordonii, so products containing extracts from other species of Hoodia do not have this appetite-suppressing action.
Recently there has been an explosion in the number of mail order companies and Internet sites offering so-called Hoodia pills. Unfortunately, there have been many complaints of consumer fraud associated with Hoodia. In fact, some of these pills have been found to contain so small a quantity of P57 that it is doubtful they could have a noticeable effect. Others have been found to contain no trace at all of the Hoodia gordonii molecule.
There are several checks you can make to reduce the risk of becoming the victim of a Hoodia scam. Firstly, the product should be 100 per cent pure South African Hoodia from the Kalahari Desert. Reputable suppliers will display their certificates on their web sites to prove it. Secondly, the Hoodia should be licensed by the Western Cape Conservation Authority of South Africa. Two certified documents are required to prove the authenticity of pure South African Hoodia: the C.I.T.E.S Certificate and the Analytical Report. Without these, a Hoodia product is almost undoubtedly a scam.
Of course, if overeating is not the cause of your weight problem (and it very often isn't, contrary to popular belief), then suppressing your appetite is not going to help.
To understand more about why overeating and 'emotional eating' are very often not the cause of overweight and how to tackle the real causes of your diet not working, check out the e-book "Why Can't I Lose Weight – The Real Reasons Diets Fail And What To Do About It".
3) Latest recipes released in the Low Carb / Low GI Cookbook
For those of our readers who are subscribers to the Low Carb / Low GI Cookbook, a new recipe has just been released: mock rice pudding. You will find this recipe already in your Cookbook next time you log in.
4) Did you know?
Did you know that ...
- ... Your stomach is not the only organ you need to think about when trying to lose weight. Your liver is important too, as it has to metabolise all that stored fat you're trying to lose. If it's not in good shape, or has too much other work to do (such as detoxifying your body of all the chemicals you put into it) then your weight loss will suffer.
- ... Drinking plenty of water and cutting down on caffeine will help your liver do its job.
5) Your successes, requests and questions
This is your spot. Whether it's your dietary success story, a request to cover a particular topic in a future newsletter or a question you would like answered, we would love to hear from you. Please do contact us.
Here is a question we answered recently:
- Q I'm about to begin a lo carb diet. I'm 54 years old, weigh 200 pounds and am 5'2". Am considering lap band or possibly even gastric by pass but wonder if locarb will work.
- A Try the low carb diet first! There are lots of scientific reasons why low carb might work for you when low calorie/low fat 'conventional' diets haven't. In my view, gastric banding and gastric bypass surgery just treats the symptom not the cause. Even if a person does 'eat too much' (and many overweight people don't) the belief of many experts is that this is due to biochemical and hormonal causes which need to be dealt with for the sake of long term health as well as just losing the weight. A gastric band doesn't do this.
However, a good low carb diet will get to the root of the problem for many people. If you'd like more information on this, I'd recommend you read the e-book "Why Can't I Lose Weight - The Real Reasons Diets Fail And What To Do About It". In fact, I think this book is crucial reading for anyone considering gastric banding or any other type of weight loss surgery.
You may also find the "Easy Guide to Low Carb, Low GI & Low GL Diets" helpful. This is currently free on purchase of the "Low Carb / Low GI Cookbook".
6) Tell Us What You Think
Your opinions matter to us. If there is something you particularly like or don't like about our newsletter or website, please let us know.
7) Visit Our Newsletter Archive
Did you miss an issue? Want to review an issue you really enjoyed? Be sure to check out our newsletter archive.
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With best wishes for your continued good health
Founder Director, Good Diet Good Health.com
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