Chemicals hiding in popular foods


Sarah Brooks, Reporter

An ice cream cone drenched in chocolate syrup on a hot summer day, or a soda after going to the beach – sounds great right? But your body disagrees. Things like soda, syrups, sugar cereal, candy and canned foods often have things like high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and monosodium glutamate (MSG), all very harmful to your body.

Like so many people in the world, I have tried to eat less things that contain unhealthy chemicals and more wholesome and healthy foods to prepare me for a long healthy life. However, like so many people in the world, it is difficult because some foods that might seem like a healthier option unexpectedly have these hidden chemicals.

Some people think “this stuff can’t be that bad,” but in reality they are worse than many people think. High fructose corn syrup is corn syrup with an enzyme that converts glucose to fructose raising blood pressure substantially. Partially hydrogenated oils are oils turned to a solid fat form, containing trans fats and results in high “bad” cholesterol or LDL and lowers “good” cholesterol (HDL). Another popular harmful chemical is MSG which has addictive elements to enhance flavors. This often causes headache, nausea, weight gain and muscle tightness.

Manufacturing companies put chemicals in foods and drinks to save them from having to buy more expensive sweeteners, like real sugar over high fructose corn syrup, real butter and healthier oils over partially hydrogenated oils and natural flavoring over addictive flavor enhancers like MSG. Foods that have chemicals like this are typically less expensive and available everywhere, so they become the leading brands to people who care more about the price than their well being, which is a large percent of America’s population.

Studies have shown Americans are 20% more likely to get diabetes than people in other countries who do not put controversial chemicals and sweeteners in foods. This is not just because of the people who buy these chemical filled products, it’s on the companies too. On ingredient labels now, companies sneak the word “fructose” instead of high fructose corn syrup, “vegetable shortening” instead of partially hydrogenated oil, and “glutamate” and “yeast extract” instead of MSG because they fear more people are catching onto the cheap, sweet and unhealthy chemical ingredients.  

As the American stereotype makes clear, a lot of Americans are unhealthy, but it could just be because of the chemical trap companies have built to make their brands successful. Companies that might seem credibly healthy can sometimes have their secrets that make it difficult for Americans to build a better lifestyle. Overall, these chemicals are very harmful and should be avoided because the companies that do this may be sneaky, but the trend of people learning about this topic and avoiding it is growing.