Coloring agents Blue 1, Blue 2, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6
Sean MacD/Shutterstock These numerical hues might sound harmless, even right out of a Dr. Seuss book, but they’re code names for synthetic food dyes. These chemicals are common in the United States, and they’re used to make food more attractive and appetizing—especially for kids. Think: fluorescent juices, rainbow cereals, multi-hued candy. “In Europe, many products with food dyes have been taken off the shelves, labeled as dangerous, or had the dye removed as they have been linked to hyperactivity in children,” says Eliza Savage, RD, New York City-based dietitian. “Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) also reported that dyes may cause organ damage, cancer, birth defects, allergic reactions, hyperactivity or behavioral problems in children whether or not should be banned in US.” That’s right—their nutritional purpose is nonexistent—they’re merely a cosmetic enhancement of food.
katueng/Shutterstock Remember this one? Meet Procter & Gamble’s unique creation—a synthetic fat that first hit markets in the late 1990s. This fat substitute has been used in the preparation of normally high-fat foods such as potato chips, french fries, corn chips, etc. “It passes through the digestive tract, so it provides no calories,” explains Toby Amidor, MS, RD, nutrition expert and author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. “Olestra can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and gas—and symptoms can become severe, depending on how much is eaten.” Amidor also notes that Olestra can reduce the body’s ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and several carotenoid-based phytonutrients such as lutein and lycopene. This synthetic fat is banned in Canada and the U.K., but readily available on our home turf.