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What Do Food Additives Look Like?

We all know packaged foods that roll off the assembly line are loaded with many mysterious additives.

But have you ever wondered what these factory formulations actually look like and exactly how they’re made?

In this upcoming new book, Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products (to be released September 29 and available for preorder now on Amazon), macro photographer Dwight Eschliman focuses on some of most common ingredients in processed foods while science writer Steve Ettlinger probes the exact makeup of each.

Azodicarbonamide is a food additive to strengthen dough and is also used as a foaming agent to make rubber products such as yoga mats.

Azodicarbonamide is a food additive to strengthen dough and is also used as a foaming agent to make rubber products such as yoga mats. Dwight Eschliman/Regan Arts

The book provides a fascinating glimpse into the often complicated compounds that go into those bags, boxes and cans that line grocery store shelves.

It’s estimated there are more than 5,000 different food additives used in the U.S – apparently know one, including the FDA, knows for sure. (The government doesn’t regulate or approve food additives.)

And considering 70% of the average American’s diet is made up of processed foods, what exactly all those multi-syllable food additives might be up to inside our bodies would be good to know.

Artificial dyes Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 5 They start out as grey and white powders that include nitric acid and tartaric acid. Then they're mixed with petroleum byproducts, neutralized with lye, and sprayed as a mist onto hot walls to instantly dry the mixture into these brightly-colored powders. Dwight Eschliman/Regan Arts

Artificial dyes Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 5 They start out as grey and white powders that include nitric acid and tartaric acid. Then they’re mixed with petroleum byproducts, neutralized with lye, and sprayed as a mist onto hot walls to instantly dry the mixture into these brightly-colored powders. Dwight Eschliman/Regan Arts

Recent consumer demand for more “natural” foods have made many processed food conglomerates take a second look at the artificial colorings, preservatives, emulsifiers, flavor-enhancers and other ingredients they’ve routinely dumped into their packaged goods for years.

Manufacturers say food additives are perfectly safe, while many health advocates – including paleo followers – are highly skeptical of those claims.

paleo-newbie-Shellac-food-additive-932x524

Shellac is also called confectioner’s resin or candy glaze. It’s a colorant and preservative made out of the resinous excretion from the Laccifer lacca insect. It’s harvested and processed for use as a natural plastic coating for candy and other foods. Dwight Eschliman/Regan Arts

If you’d like to learn more about food additives from a new perspective, Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products looks like a good place to start.

All photos © Dwight Eschliman/Regan Arts

Main Photo at top of post: Chlorophyll extracted from plants with harsh solvents, and typically treated with copper to prevent oxidation.

Here’s a link if you’d like to check out the upcoming book on Amazon.com: Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products


Read “What Do Food Additives Look Like Before They End Up In Your Food” via Wired.com for more.

 

Too Much Omega-6 May Be Bad For Your Brain

Twenty years ago, former Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Dr. Barry Sears didn’t buy into the high-carb/low-fat nutritional mantra of the day, and instead championed a diet that would reduce cellular inflammation — and the world’s rising obesity rate.

Fast forward to today: diabetes diagnoses have risen nearly 180% over the last 3 decades thanks in part Sears says to the continued adherence to the high-carb/low-fat diet dogma. And now Sears thinks it’s not a coincidence that new Alzheimer’s Disease cases have risen dramatically over the same period.

In Sears’s new book, The Mediterranean Zone, he makes a strong case that a pro-inflammatory diet can be directly linked to diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

According to Sears, almost all chronic diseases can be tied to cellular inflammation which over time can negatively impact the brain.

Sears says the best approach to beating the odds of developing many diseases ranging from cancer to heart disease is to keep your cells as healthy as possible through an anti-inflammatory diet.

While Sears recommends a Mediterranean diet, and I’d say Paleo is the best way to go, the end goal is similar. Both diets promote consuming balanced meals of protein, low glycemic carbs (such as fruits and vegetables) and moderate amounts of fat that are low in omega-6 fatty acids (such as found in vegetable oils) and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Sears points out the typical American diet includes way too much omega-6 fatty acids…up to 20-times more than omega-3. It’s no surprise fast food meals loaded with vegetable oils are one of the biggest offenders.

Due to the inflammatory properties of omega-6, Sears speculates this 20:1 fatty acid imbalance may explain many psychological and emotional issues people experience today, and omega-6 rich diets may even raise an individual’s propensity for violent behavior.

Sears cites studies that seem to indicate high doses of omega-3 fatty acids may help in the treatment of depression, ADHD and anxiety.

The point in Sears’s assessment is you need to cut way back on omega-6 and other foods that may cause cellular inflammation, and make a conscious effort to work more omega 3 fatty acids into your diet.

Wild salmon is one of the best natural sources for omega-3. Stay away from farm raised salmon – producers are increasingly using vegetables oils rich in omega-6 to feed the fish.

Sears also says only the Japanese eat enough fish to properly balance the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, and the best solution for most people is enhancing their anti-inflammatory diets with high-quality omega-3 supplements made from anchovies and sardines.

Read “What Our Diet Is Doing To Our Brains” via Forbes online for more.