As obesity rates worldwide continue to increase, it is time for consumers to know and understand more about what they put into their mouths.
The USA is the world’s fattest nation. Obesity rates are rising in all developed countries, and if nothing changes, the obesity rate in the U.S. will increase to 42 percent by the year 2030. However, preventing this increase is possible if consumers are willing and take the time to learn more about what they eat—saving $550 billion in medical expenditures over the next 20 years by preventing obesity growth.
The Rise of Commercial Baking
There are several causes of obesity. One of them is that people consume massive amounts of processed, commercially-produced foods. Commercially-processed foods contain chemicals and additives that our bodies may struggle to process because they are not naturally occurring, and our bodies don’t know what to do with them.
In the old days, families made and baked their bread and bread products. It was not uncommon to experience the smell of freshly baked bread wafting from the kitchen multiple times per week. As Americans got busier, they began to depend more on commercial bakeries for their baked goods. Commercial bakeries produce soft, smoothly textured bread, rolls, buns, and pastries to keep their customers back, which can be difficult for the average home baker. These qualities are produced by utilizing chemical food additives.
Common Chemical Food Additives
The following list of chemical food additives was taken from the labels of two popular commercially baked, widely available bread brands. They are defined to help the reader become a more educated consumer.
- Calcium sulfate: Plaster of Paris; used as a dietary source of calcium.
- Hydrogenated mono- and diglycerides
- Ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides: Another form of hydrogenated oil
- Sodium stearoyl lactylate: Used as an emulsifier (keeps water and oil from separating) in processed foods
- Ammonium sulfate: Used as a food source for yeast
- Calcium carbonate: Used as a highly concentrated calcium supplement
- Soy lecithin: Byproduct of soybean oil processing; used as an inexpensive emulsifier
- Date (DATEM): Emulsifier used as a dough and crust softener
- Calcium iodate: Dough conditioner and flour treatment agent; used in pet foods as a source of calcium and iodine
- Ascorbic acid: A sugar acid used as a food preservative; also known as vitamin C
- Azodicarbonamide: Flour bleaching agent; use is illegal in Australia, Europe, and Singapore. Usable in the USA.
- Calcium propionate: The salt form of an antifungal food preservative; topical antifungal agent
- Monocalcium phosphate: Used as a leavening agent; also possesses antimicrobial properties and is used as a preservative
- Guar gum: Preservative; used to increase dough yield and to increase shelf life and better texture
- Refined wheat flour: Wheat flour is combined with distilled vinegar, dehydrated back to flour form, and used as an anti-mold agent.
- Sorbitan monostearate: Used as an emulsifier
The term emulsifier appeared in the above list numerous times. According to Britannica Online, it’s in margarine and salad dressing. Stabilizers, like emulsifiers, help keep emulsions together. Thickeners may improve food consistency and give sauces and other liquids body. This group of chemicals improves food’s look and consistency while also extending shelf life.”
A number of these chemical additives are used as preservatives, which increase the shelf life of baked goods. A food preservative has to be approved by the FDA before being used legally in the United States. However, it does not mean that consuming food preservatives is safe. Many additives and preservatives can cause many health problems, including allergic reactions, cancer, congenital disabilities, and asthma. The FDA later banned many food additives that were once approved for use by the FDA because they were found to cause significant health problems.
Consumers worldwide are putting their health at risk by not educating themselves regarding the foods they eat daily. When consumers know what they should not eat, they will likely wonder what they should eat. When the general world population goes back to eating fresh, whole foods, they will avoid costly health problems in the future.