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The Truth Behind "Natural Flavors": Hidden Ingredients Impacting Your Health

Updated: Jun 13

The Truth Behind "Natural Flavors"

Have you ever glanced at a food label and noticed the vague term "natural flavors" listed among the ingredients? While it may sound innocuous, the reality is far from it. "Natural flavors" is a catch-all phrase that can conceal a myriad of substances, including synthetic chemicals and additives, which pose potential health risks. One such additive is Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT or BHA), a controversial preservative that has sparked concerns among health-conscious consumers and regulatory bodies worldwide.

The Definition of "Natural Flavors" According to the FDA:

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "natural flavors" are defined as substances derived from natural sources such as spices, fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, and other plant or animal products. However, this definition is broad and allows food manufacturers to include a wide range of additives under the umbrella of "natural flavors," including synthetic chemicals like:

  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT or BHA)

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

  • Artificial Sweeteners

  • Synthetic Colors

  • Chemical Preservatives

Hydroxytoluene (BHT or BHA) Banned & Swaps

The Environmental Working Group's Perspective:

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization, has voiced concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding "natural flavors" in food products. They argue that consumers have the right to know exactly what they're consuming and advocate for greater transparency and labeling requirements for food manufacturers.

Ingredients Classified as "Natural Flavors":

While "natural flavors" may sound wholesome, they can encompass a variety of synthetic additives and flavor enhancers. Some common ingredients classified as "natural flavors" include Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial sweeteners, synthetic colors, and chemical preservatives.

What is BHT, and Why Should You Be Concerned?

Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT or BHA) is a synthetic antioxidant commonly used as a preservative in processed foods, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. While it's intended to extend shelf life and prevent rancidity, studies have linked BHT consumption to adverse health effects. Research suggests that BHT may disrupt hormone balance, contribute to liver damage, and even promote the development of certain cancers.

Countries Banning BHT:

In response to growing health concerns, some countries have taken steps to restrict or ban the use of BHT or BHA in food products. For example, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the European Union have implemented regulations limiting BHT usage due to its potential health risks. However, in the United States, BHT remains widely used and is considered "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the FDA, despite ongoing debates about its safety.

Health Risks and Studies:

Numerous studies have raised red flags about the safety of BHT consumption. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found that BHT exposure was associated with liver damage and increased the risk of liver tumors in laboratory animals. Additionally, research published in Environmental Health Perspectives linked BHT to disruptions in hormone regulation, potentially contributing to reproductive and developmental issues. (Reference:

Foods Containing Hidden BHT or BHA:

In the U.S., BHT is used to enhance texture of soft white breads, including hamburger buns at McDonald's and Burger King.

  • Breakfast Cereals

  • Packaged Snacks (Chips, Crackers)

  • Processed Meats

  • Baked Goods

  • Instant Noodles

  • Chewing Gum

  • Potato Chips

  • Margarine

Navigating Food Labels and Making Informed Choices:

Given the potential health risks associated with BHT and other hidden additives, it's essential to scrutinize food labels and make informed choices about the products you consume. Opting for whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible can help minimize your exposure to synthetic additives like BHT. Additionally, supporting brands that prioritize transparency and use minimal additives in their products can contribute to a healthier diet and lifestyle.

Vote with your money.

Voting with Your Wallet:

As consumers, we have the power to influence food manufacturers' practices by voting with our wallets. By choosing to support brands that prioritize transparency and use minimal additives in their products, we can send a powerful message about the importance of food safety and ingredient transparency. Together, we can advocate for greater accountability and ensure that the products we consume are truly safe and nourishing for our bodies.

In conclusion, while "natural flavors" may sound innocuous, it's crucial to recognize the potential hidden dangers lurking behind this vague term. By educating yourself about additives like BHT/BHA and making conscious choices about the foods you consume, you can take proactive steps to safeguard your health and well-being.

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Gwen Krehbiel, Owner & CNHP

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What can you do now?

🥬🥬 Start by eating low-inflammatory foods and supplements such as Magnesium Glycinate, Omega-3 Fatty Acid, Vitamin E and Vitamin B1 to help naturally relieve some of the pain.

But that’s just scratching the surface.

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05. März
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It's so sad that a little work like "natural" can mean so many things. Read those labels people.

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