About this time in 1995, I was preparing to open my clinic in the space behind Wynn’s Pharmacy on Eighth Street. The long hot summer was followed by a late hurricane, Opal, that blew through Griffin and toppled some of our beautiful oak trees on Maple Street. Meanwhile, I was painting, spackling, and spiffing the area that was to become the first Iris City Chiropractic Center.
I worked all day into the evening and the wee hours of the morning. I did not want to stop for meals, so I went to what was then Bruno’s for groceries so that I could munch as I worked. Nothing was simpler than just microwaving hotdogs.
Several months later I was doing some deep cleaning that prompted me to move the microwave oven. Behind it was a plastic bag that contained three hot dog buns from months before. With the exception of being dry, they still looked just fine. I reflected on that since then, wondering what was put into those hot dog buns that rendered them so indestructible – so that even mold would not eat them.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and the related compound butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are organic compounds that are often added to foods to preserve fats and kill fungi. They are powerful antioxidants, and they keep oxygen from reacting with fat because oxygen will react with the antioxidants first. BHA and BHT are sympathetic, manufactured chemicals that are petroleum based and fat-soluble. This makes them mix well with the fats in our foods. This is why the fats in foods do not go rancid as quickly as they would in nature. BHA and BHT are also used in cosmetics and drugs to preserve them as well.
Both of these chemicals have passed tests at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but this should not give you a real sense of security. These compounds have also been linked to allergic reactions, hyperactivity, rashes, asthma, and other health problems. Animal studies with BHT have shown links to reduce body weight, high cholesterol, and birth defects.
Americans are consuming huge amounts of these chemicals without knowing it. I went into the kitchen here the clinic to look at a couple of things we have on the shelf and found these chemicals in the list of ingredients. They are in everything from potato chips to cookies, cakes, crackers, carbonated drinks, chewing gum, shortening, lard, vegetable oils, margarine, cheese spreads, ice cream, dry cereals, and virtually anything else you will consume today.
On the labels for your foods, look for the phrase "for added freshness," or "as a preservative." When you see these marketing phrases, you can look for these chemicals.
BHT has been banned in England because it reacts with other things that you eat to make carcinogens. BHA is considered a cancer causing agent in the state of California. The Japanese have found that this substance causes cancerous tumors in the stomachs of rats. Both of these chemicals are toxic to your liver and kidneys.
The FDA says these additives are safe because it takes large amounts to produce cancers. Unfortunately, as they are added to most everything we eat, we do consume large amounts every day. The question, course, is "How large is large?" We want our foods to be fresh when they arrive in our stores and our kitchens. The companies that produce our foods need to be profitable, and they could not make their products and deliver them to us without preservatives to extend shelflife from the point of production to the point of consumption. Somehow, we need to balance profitability and safety. I personally am not fully comfortable leaving that decision process to a government agency.
So, what do we do? First, if you eat anything from the grocery store, use makeup, or take oral medications, you will not be able to avoid BHA and BHT completely. What you can do is structure your diet with as many fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables as you can. Look for food that is not canned or "processed," that is truly fresh without the addition of chemicals. It will be healthier for you even if it is more trouble to prepare.
If you have concerns about what you are eating, your weight, or your general health, come join us in our discussions at our Take Shape for Life meetings that we hold twice each month at Championship Martial Arts on Solomon Street (across Sixth Street from the courthouse). These meetings are free and done as a public service, and you are welcome.
Read the labels of what you were eating. If you are what you eat, it may give you something to think about all day.