Additives – An In-Depth Overview On The Essentials

This article is completely devoted to additives and raising the overall understanding and awareness of them.​ The article explains what additives are, a common myth about them, that if they are harmful or not and goes into a good deal of other stuff.

It will basically provide an overview of the question, whether or not additives are something that we can afford to neglect.

Additives Are Substances Added To Improve Or Change Qualities

The honest truth is that no matter what your eating habits are, it’s pretty sure to say that you are also consuming additives daily. So, what exactly are they?

To put it in simple terms, additives are substances that are added to either food, supplements, or medicine to improve or change their qualities [R, R].

Additives To Cover Essentials

They can be used as colors, preservatives, antioxidants, sweeteners, emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, gelling, bulking, glazing, anti-foaming and anti-caking agents, carriers, acidity regulators, flavor enhancers, and loads of other ways [R, R].

Supplement additives and additives in medicine often times are referred to as the other ingredients. But that doesn’t change a thing, those additives that are in food and medicine are the same ones you can find in food.

Some people think that additives are only those substances that have fancy names, like Allura Red AC, Calcium Hydrogen Sulphite, Steviol Glycoside, or Polyoxyethylene Sorbitan Monopalmitate.

However, also simple everyday common stuff that we are so used to can be considered and used as additives. Some examples would be sugar, salt, water, oils, or Calcium Chloride (extremely common in cheese).

Anything that is ever tied with an E number is also an additive. In Europe, E-numbers are the numerical system of representing additives. In other words, any additive that can be used has an E-number for it. For example, Citric acid is also known as E330, Silicon Dioxide is known as E551, or stuff like Beta-carotene has an abbreviation of E160a.

E-numbers are most commonly used to shorten the name of an additive so the ingredient list takes up less space on the package of the product. For example, it’s much shorter to list E468 as an additive than it is to use its full name (Crosslinked Sodium Carboxy Methyl Cellulose).

Other times, however, they are used to hiding certain additives that people may not want in their food, supplements, or medicine. For example, people may know a certain additive by its E-number, but not know its actual name. The same can be true the other way around, namely, people may know the name of the additive they wish to avoid, but not know the equivalent E-number.

Should We Read Labels? Or Is That A Complete Waste Of Time?

The two biggest regulators of additives of the modern World are the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

There Are Certain Agencies That Determine SafetyBoth of them regulate and determine, which additives are safe and okay to use. They also regulate what kind of new additives can be introduced to the market [R, R, R].

But above all, before approving any additive they collect research on it, ask the applicant to provide sufficient evidence that any one additive is safe for use and consumption, as well as they do their own tests.

Ultimately, and because of the role of these two agencies, many will try to argue that all additives are completely harmless and we should never really waste time reading the labels.

However, nothing can be further from the truth.

Here’s The Real Question. Are They Potentially Harmful?

In reality, I believe there are many actually and truly harmful additives that get approved. More on ‘why’ this happens later in the article, but know that by harmful I mean the following.

Not only are they able to bring about or worsen the condition of any chronic disease, but they can affect our brain’s and body’s functioning in a seriously negative way. And by that not only will it affect our performance, but also our overall life happiness and fulfillment in life [R, R].

For example, Hydrogenated Oils are both one of the most consumed and one of the most harmful substances to consume out there. You’ve probably heard about the Trans Fat, and that they are bad, and that we should not consume them. In truth, hydrogenated oils (or hydrogenated fats) are Trans Fat.

There is no difference between the two at all. The hydrogenated oils are just a relatively new name for that same thing. The name was invented because people essentially became too aware of the fact that Trans Fat is BAD and should not be consumed. Which, of course, wasn’t in the interests of the food industry.

Hydrogenated Oils Can Be Extremely HarmfulThese type of oils damage cells (that includes scarring arteries), causes obesity, diabetes, ADHD, increases inflammation in general, comprehensively interrupts normal brain function and has numerous other adverse effects [R, R, R, R, R, R].

In fact, hydrogenated oils are easily among the most harmful substances that are added to food, supplements, and medicine. I’m not even exaggerating [R, R].

Also, High-Fructose Corn Syrup is no-health-improver. This is to put it lightly.

The sad thing, however, is that the most exposed group of people to this substance are children. As it essentially is the ultimate form of sugar, it’s most abundant in sweets. This is why manufacturers use it in their products. It is sweeter than the classical table sugar. Thus, these products are considered tastier and hence, bought more.

But the effects of this substance are truly devastating. Cancer promotion, weight gain, liver damage, diabetes, obesity, leaky gut, heart disease. I mean, these are just some of the truly negative effects of this substance [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R].

What’s worse, is that generally people also have become aware that this substance is not okay to use. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good thing, however, the food industry has also become aware that consumers realized High-Fructose Corn Syrup is not okay to use.

Their response?

Let’s hide it under different names.

And that’s gone as far as there are 15+ ingredients that in truth can potentially be High-Fructose Corn Syrup. So, you might be consuming this substance daily without even knowing it. Here’s a list with those possible alternate names:

  1. Glucose Syrup,
  2. Glucose-Fructose Syrup,
  3. Glucose-Fructose,
  4. Maize Syrup,
  5. Tapioca Syrup,
  6. Fruit Fructose,
  7. Corn Syrup,
  8. Natural Corn Syrup,
  9. Fructose Corn Syrup,
  10. Dahlia Syrup,
  11. Crystalline Fructose,
  12. HFCS,
  13. HFCS-90,
  14. Fructose Syrup,
  15. Fructose,
  16. Isolated Fructose,
  17. Isoglucose,
  18. And there might be others as well [R, R, R, R, R].

By far most of the sweets use this substance as their main source of sweetness in products. In fact, I we’d be frustrated to find any kind of bars, any sorts of typical candy, ice-cream, etc. that uses the conventional table sugar (simple processed sugar instead of this).

Food Coloring Is Extremely Common Amoung Sweets

But the regular processed sugar consumption also does not serve us. But it is way, way, way less detrimental than High-Fructose Corn Syrup [R, R, R, R, R, R].

Practically 99.99% of ice cream have it, about 95% of other sweets have it. And there are loads of other processed foods that use this substance as a trade-off for conventional sugar.

Also, it’s very popular among supplements, especially those that come in a form of gummy vitamins. And also medications use it for some random reason to make the medicine easier to take or not as distasteful.

One other thing that is extremely common among sweets is Coloring.

Coloring in its essence is a way to add some type of color to any food, supplement, or medicine. Have you seen those blue ice-creams? Or maybe bright yellow or green cupcakes?

Yes, that’s coloring.

There are two types of coloring. Natural and Artificial. The artificial one is the worst of the two [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R].

Studies on artificial coloring have shown to most affect children’s behavior in a seriously negative way. Some examples are hyperactivity, irritability, and all kinds of other disturbing behavior. At the same time, they’re known to induce and be the sole main cause of a large variety of cancers, no matter your age.

Annatto Is Extremely Commonly Used as an Additive For Coloring Purposes

On the other hand, natural coloring might seem like a healthy option of coloring. But that not completely true.

While natural coloring for sure is a better option than an artificial one, it’s not that great of an option either [R, R, R].

Essentially it matters greatly how it’s produced. Poor production practices may result in high contamination and toxins and can bring a lot of harm. Also, some types of natural coloring, like ones that are based on Annatto, can cause some serious side-effects [R, R, R, R, R].

Nonetheless, these are just some examples of harmful additives out there. In truth, there are many, many, many more in the industry and I will discuss them in future articles on various additives.

Why Do The Potentially Harmful Additives Ever Get Approved?

Well, you probably should be having an echoing question in the back of your head about now. “Didn’t you just said that there are government agencies that determine if this stuff is harmful?”

Yes, there is.

However… The food industry in itself is a very rich and powerful industry. Whole economies are based and heavily rely on them. Heavy lobbying in these industries is also involved.

So, in general, the legislator and the government pretty much, well, essentially don’t intervene (at least the way I see it) with what gets sold as and put into foods. This might sound controversial but here’s what I feel kind of is the essence of it.

Governments Don't Have The Funds To Do Extended In-Depth Researches For Before Approving AdditivesAs long something isn’t so bad that it drops people dead immediately or short after, it gets approved. Because government agencies are underfunded to do full independent in-depth research. So, they highly rely on the safety research that these companies do on their own and submit.

Which of course most of the time is biased. And it potentially represents what the company wants it to represent, regardless of its safety.

It’s very important to remember that the food industry’s main goal is to sell. Not to take care of or preserve our health. But to sell and to generate revenue. And most, by far most companies, are exactly like that.

I feel that they do not (genuinely) care about our health. I mean, I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s all about the revenue.

On the flip side, there are of course also some companies that truly and deeply care for their consumer health, however, they are an overwhelming minority.

Coca-Cola Is Known To Fund Research That Shifts The Blame For Obesity Away From Sugary Drinks

Just to prove the point of how powerful and rich the industry is and that their research can pretty much be what they want it to be, let’s look at an example.

In the 1960s the sugar industry paid 3 highly respected, top-shelf scientists to downplay the role of sugar in heart disease and instead put it on saturated fat [R, R, R, R].

And this was able to derail the discussion about the negative effects of sugar for decades.

Relatively recently it has also been discovered that Coca-Cola funds scientists who shift the blame for obesity away from bad diets and sugary drinks. They instead blame it on the fat we consume [R, R].

Which Brings Me To The Question Of Are All Of Them Bad?

So, is every bit of additives bad and harmful for health? Not at all.

There many additives that pose no real threat to health, like Silicon Dioxide, Magnesium StearateStearic Acid, Lactic Acid and there are many others [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R].

Sure, there can be some side-effects, if those substances are used in huge amounts. But that is true for anything to be honest. Even water in ridiculously huge amounts can be considered unhealthy.Additives: Many Are Harmless (Some Are Even Beneficial) And Completely Okay To Consume

Although it has to be said that for many this side effect threshold is pretty much physically impossible to achieve.

Of course, we all are different and for some particular, even harmless additives can cause an allergenic reaction. But this definitely is not something that people should generally encounter.

Above all though, besides harmful and harmless additives there are some that can even be considered beneficial.

Additives like L-leucine, Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, Fractioned Coconut Oil and even natural flavorings that follow certain production practices all can be considered beneficial to health [R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R, R].

And, of course, there are also many others that could be considered to fall into this category.

Bottom Line. Protect Your Own Health, They Won’t Do It For You

Additives are something that is extremely commonly used in food, supplements, and medicine these days. Although there are government agencies that supposedly only approve completely harmless additives, in truth it is not the case. Politics, lobbying, and various industry interests (mostly the food industry’s) are heavily involved in this.

Ultimately, not everything we can buy in the stores is okay to consume, especially if we want to preserve our health, live a long, happy life, and be vibrant. Thus, I’m a big believer in the fact that we ourselves have to be those that through knowledge protect and care for our own health.

And while our main concern on this website is supplements for now, I feel additives are quite a big part of it. And we’re here to help navigate and seek the truth when it comes to these “glue” ingredients as well. More articles in this category to come.

Did you like the article? Did you learn something new? Did you happen to have any “aha” moments? Let me know below.

24 thoughts on “Additives – An In-Depth Overview On The Essentials”

  1. Hi Matiss,

    I was searching for a supplement article concerning “Additives” or “Other Ingredients” and surprise, my main man Matiss has already supplied that need. I should have looked here first. Duh! You are always one step ahead, and that is great.

    I have sooooooo many questions concerning “Additives”. Done a little research and I see conflicting study results. Example:

    Other Ingredients
    Plant cellulose, silica, vegetable lubricant (palm), chlorophyll.
    Organic potato starch, vegetable cellulose (capsule), organic gum arabic.
    Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC)

    If I am taking 10-15 capsules, of a variety of supplements, and each single supplement has “other ingredients”, I am afraid of the possible short-term and ‘unseen’ long-term effects. Though a single dose of “other ingredients” may not be harmful, there could be a problem if you are taking 15 times more silica, Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC), Magnesium Stearate, potato starch, etc. daily. Wouldn’t you think? IT JUST GIVE ME PAUSE.. Besides

    — Potato starch can come from genetically modified potatoes
    — Magnesium Stearate, (mainly flow agent), seem that it would decrease the absorption rate of the supplement
    — Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC)…. isn’t that a “binding agent”?

    Too much of any ‘good thing” can be harmful. Then again, in small amounts, and over a short period of time, I guess these additives would be OK. Even though they are considered harmless. Think one would have to qualify “harmless” base on short-term vs long term, AND, 1 additive daily vs. 15 additives daily for X number of months/years.

    But if I knew the amounts of each “other ingredient”, that would ease my concerns. And if I knew that the capsules themselves were made with these “other ingredients”, then I could just open the capsule and dump the contents into my smoothy or juice, (which is what I do anyway). I know that some manufacturers list the capsule ingredients, (gelatin or brown rice for example), under “other ingredients. BTW, I would consume both of these ingredients without hesitation).

    One last thing: “FDA Approval” does not mean that the “approval process/ concludion” was motivated out of “care” or “protection” for the public’s health. ( I think you alluded to that fact via your ‘lobbyist’ comment). We know the truth about that. :). That’s my two cents worth.

    Thanks my friend!

    • Hey, Joe!

      I swear to God, I was pretty sure I got back to this one. And, yeah, about the other comments you left, this is probably the longest I’ve not answered to a comment and comments across the website just in general. Sorry about that; had some really tough weeks in my day job. And had to put out some articles, too.

      Again, sorry, Joe. :)

      Now, to the comment. I absolutely feel you. And I appreciate your two cents.

      Let me just say that there is just a ton of conflicting information on additives in general. For example, most internet will try to tell you that Magnesium Stearate causes cancer. Which isn’t true at all. It’s just a low-quality misinterpretation on the available research. Which I think illustrates a broader problem. I mean, we either have to have a genuinely trustable resource to get our information from or we have to dig it through ourselves every time.

      Here’s a thing to understand about additives. We can basically consume almost any additive out there irregularly, and if we’re truly healthy, it should generally not cause a problem or concern at all. Problems start when we have too many of the wrong ones. Whereas the harmless ones – well, their harmless typically even in crazy high amounts.

      For example, when it comes to Magnesium Stearate (a typical dose of it per tablet), I’ve seen well-informed, high-profile doctors state that we would need to consume thousands of tablets daily for it to become harmful. And having studied the research behind it, I agree with that. And it’s similar to stuff like Silicon Dioxide, Microcrystalline Cellulose, HPMC, and most other additives I coin as harmless.

      And those others like your mentioned Gelatin or Brown Rice, or all of them that I typically refer to as “beyond harmless” or “slightly beneficial” – that’s even more true to them due to just their inherent nature.

      And about that FDA approval, indeed, I did.

      Matiss “Promise to be faster with responses” Dzelve

  2. That makes sense that sugar, salt, water, oil, etc. can be additives. I guess when you think of the word additives, you add something to enhance it right? Noted that the hydrogenated oil and trans fat are the same. You are so right on that the government does not care for your health. I always say to my husband that you have to take care of yourself first!! 

    Nowadays, when I cook I lightly cook the oil, since when you overheat the oils it turns into these harmful properties that are so harmful to your heart. So, when I cook oil I always chose the high burning point oils only like corn, canola (which isn’t that good for you, has lots of acid), I will just use about a tablespoon. When it comes to salad, I use only olive oil and balsamic vinegar and that’s it, I find them to be the perfect combination.

    The children food though, is very alarming in my opinion. My rule is if I find the ingredients that is more than 5 and most of them I cannot pronounce I stay clear from them. I usually buy my grocery at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, I still check the label though, you cannot trust anyone as you mentioned. Feel that if we are aware of what we put in our bodies, these horrible companies will give in very soon. It might be a long journey but it will eventually happen.

    Great read.

    • Hey, Nuttanee!

      Uuu-uu, yes, I love that. And I 100% agree with that. We have to take care of ourselves!!

      About those oils, that’s so thoughtful. Me and my wife we’re kind of doing the same thing. Stuff with high burning point or better yet just less heat. :)

      I absolutely agree as far as children’s food. And that’s a great rule. I do my best to try to follow a version of that, too.

      Cheers, and have a Great One, Nuttanee!

  3. Excellent blog. Yea, we don’t have to always trust what the health and commercial food industry tells us. Listen to what your body says about what you put in it.

    • Hey, Laine!

      Thank you for the kind words! They mean a lot to me.
      And I appreciate you sharing your view on this. :)

      Have a Wonderful Day, Laine!
      Carpe minutam,

  4. So, after reading this I am wondering though I am not into conspiracies. I am left wondering specifically the bad additives like the trans oils etc. It really sounds like between the big food industry,tobacco and the pharmacies we aint got a chance in hell! Even if we want to live healthy we can’t seem to do it, at least cheaply because of the top 3.

    • Hey, Cathy!

      No, it’s not that bad at all, we definitely do have a chance!

      The most important takeaway, however, is that you can’t trust your health to these industries, you have to acquire and learn and look out for your health yourself. None will look out for your health better than you.
      I’ll certainly will try to provide as much of helpful information as possible, but I won’t be there next to you to talk you out of the bad food choices or other decisions that are not best for your health.

      Cheers, Stay Healthy and if you ever need anything, just let me know!
      Have a Great One!

  5. Hi,

    Thanks for this great, informative and thorough article on Additives. By reading your article, I must admit that it seems that you really have put a lot of effort in coming up with the article and you have really given me a lot to think about with on the topic. Some of these additives are extremely common and I’m aware of that that I oftentimes have had seen these additives on various labels. Yet, I didn’t had any clue as to these additives in truth being harmful to our health. 

    • Hey, Glenda!

      I’m glad you found the article helpful, totally makes worth the effort it took to put it all together.
      To better health choices and higher consumer awareness, cheers!

      Have a Great One!

  6. I learned a lot throughout this article. It is good to know that hydrogenated oils are the same as trans fat. I was unaware that companies are allowed to change the names of chemicals so often.

    What was not surprising is the powerhouse that is the food industry and all of the lobbying that happens to put dangerous additives in foods despite the long term health risks.

    This is a great article and this being the second of most likely many articles that I am going to read on your website I must say it is very well written. I feel like just about every detail is covered. If it is not covered you mention you will cover it soon or have a link to more detailed information in many cases.

    I eat way too much sugar and I eat ice cream a lot. Unfortunately every time I eat ice cream now I am going to think about all of that high fructose corn syrup… It is actually a good thing as it will help cut down my intake.

    I think I need to switch to a healthier ice cream. Is there any particular ice cream that would be more healthy than others?

    Thanks for the great information Matiss!

    • Hey, Jay!

      Thank you for all the kind words, truly made my day! :)
      I truly strive to make the information as throughout as possible. And in that I’m not cherishing the idea that I will always be able to, however, I will do my best to make it happen.

      To the ice-cream I can totally relate. There was a point in my life during 10th or 11th grade when I pretty much ate ice-cream every single day. Now, it’s quite different, however, I would lie, if I’d said that I never slip up with that.

      The best approach in this regard is to go for the ones that have only sugar in them. To be more precise, to only go for the ones that do not contain both hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup in any of its various names.

      In this regard, I have to admit that the choice will be quite limited. It always is, but it’s way less harmful, insane amount of less harmful than those that contain either of the 2 substances mentioned.

      And there will be times, when you’ll just really want to go for that particular brand of your liking, and if that makes you happier, definitely go for it. As long as this kind of consumption is pretty rare and you’re keeping your health top notch with to the very least proper food, nutritional supplements and exercising, it should barely (if at all) affect your health negatively.

      Of course, you might feel your performance dropping right after you’ve consumed it, so just be aware of it. Thus, don’t plan to do high performance mental work or studying in general after such eating. It’ll be less productive in regards to what it could have been, if not for that ice-cream.

      Cheers and Stay Healthy, Jay!
      Best Regards and Have A Great One!

  7. Hi Matiss, what can I say.. I had some idea about additives before reading your article, but I didn’t know that some of them can be so harmful. Lucky me, I love to eat mostly meat and vegetables. From ”trusted” farm shops, so maybe they are really good. But for sure after reading this topic I will take more care about cookies and sugar based products, especially those ones who expires in months.
    How can a cookie can be eatable after few weeks? Additives I guess…
    Great one, thanks for sharing!

    • Hey, Marian!

      Yes, they are! Meat, vegetables, fruits, eggs and other goods from trusted farms is the best way to go. It only gets better if you get them from organic ones.
      Yeah, definitely be careful around cookies and sugar. Lots of additives, Marian!

      Glad it was helpful!
      Cheers and have a Great One!

  8. Hi Matiss, what a post you’ve written. It has truly been insightful for me. And Oh Gosh I was totally unaware of all the additives out there, I had never paid attention to such things.
    I’ll definitely try to avoid all the harmful additives you listed and all the foods that have those. Thank you, dude.


    • Hey, Habib!

      I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the article and that you found it helpful.
      All in all, if you’re just starting out, don’t be discouraged by how many foods have them. There always are alternatives. You just have to keep looking.

      Cheers and Have A Great One!

  9. It really is frustrating the amount of additives that are added to our foods. Yes not ALL are bad but most are not natural things that should be put into our bodies. I try to avoid them at all cost. Thanks for sharing this in depth information…the population needs to be informed of this kind of thing!

    • Hey, Taylor!

      I couldn’t agree with you more. There are way to many out there that people should never consume, yet unknowingly they’re consuming them every day.
      I’m glad you found the information helpful.

      Cheers and have an Awesome Day!

  10. Wow, this is a really enlightening article. Considering all the terrible substances that we consume on a daily basis. it’s no wonder that obesity, disease, and behavioral problems are so rampant. This only reinforces my decision to switch to a whole-food plant based diet. What we put in our bodies really does matter, and we can’t rely on the government and industry to tell us what’s good for us. I also appreciate that you point out that not all additives are harmful. In particular, certain additives in supplements are necessary, and the net effect on health is positive.

    • Hey, Bailey!

      I couldn’t agree with you more.
      And I’m glad you liked the article!

      Cheers and Have An Awesome Day!

  11. Hi Matiss,
    Thank you for this very well researched and comprehensive review of additives. I can see how these simple “little” things have just become soooo common that we hardly notice them at all. I agree with your statement that unless an additive kills / seriously hurts someone immediately then it will most likely gain approval to be sold as food.
    It is up to the consumer to insist that their food is as fresh and healthy as possible. I try and buy farm gate products where possible.
    What is your #1 tip for avoiding these sorts of products?

    • Hey, Glenys!

      Opting for farm gate products wherever possible is definitely good advice. I do that myself where I can.

      As for the #1 tip I’m not sure, if this truly would be the one, however, here’s something that pops into my mind when thinking about effective approaches for this.

      Don’t buy products that has more than 5 things in its ingredient list. Opt for fresh and unprocessed foods whenever and wherever possible.

      Obviously, this is a very general advice as also processed foods with only 5 things in its ingredient list can have potentially unwanted additives. Yet, this gives a pretty distinct signal that whenever there’s more – that food is probably not worth considering.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers and Have An Awesome Day!

  12. Thank you for educating people on the importance of what we put into our bodies. :)

    I must say that it is quite sad that the FDA is in a position to approve things that are in truth unhealthy. All because of the influence of the Food Industry.

    I am truly glad to see you knowing your research and spreading the message to others.
    Knowing about additives and the potential harms that they can cause is indeed important. And it’s so underrated.

    Thank you!

    • Hey, Cliff!

      Thank you for the kind words. I truly appreciate it.
      And by the way, there are many more articles on various additives to come.

      Cheers And Have an Awesome Day!


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