Some additives used in the food industry are designed to influence our taste buds. Many of them change not only the taste of the product, but also its smell. How safe are such additives for our bodies and how to recognize the presence of flavor enhancers and flavors in food?
What you need to know about flavor enhancers
The modern food industry is becoming more and more like a chemical laboratory. Nowadays it is difficult to find a product that does not contain all kinds of "E". Some of these additives extend the shelf life of food, others improve its texture, and others regulate the taste and aroma of food.
According to the international classification, food additives, designated with indices from 600 to 699, are flavor and odor enhancers. In particular, substances labeled E620-625 and E640-641 enhance the taste characteristics of food, and additives E620-637 affect its aroma.
Amplifiers taste: general characteristics
Food additives from this group stimulate the taste buds on our tongue, making the taste brighter. The use of such "buttons" makes it possible to reduce the cost of finished products by replacing expensive extracts with more affordable synthetic counterparts. "Eshki" from the category of flavor enhancers can be found in meat, fish and vegetable products.
Most often, manufacturers of sausages and other meat products, pates, canned food, soups, sauces, and poultry products resort to these assistants. Flavor enhancers are found in abundance in chips, salty snacks, powdered spices.
The most popular "tasty" additives
If you look closely at the list of ingredients of ready-made products, you can see glutamic acid and its salts in many of them, sodium guanylate, sodium inosinate, ribotides, aspartic acid and its salts. These substances are most often used in the food industry. But perhaps the most famous flavor enhancer is monosodium glutamate aka E621.
Interestingly, this protein substance itself has neither taste nor smell. It manifests itself only after mixing with food.
Monosodium glutamate is able not only to enhance, but to imitate the taste of meat, which, in fact, makes it a favorite “yoke” of meat producers.
Why are flavor enhancers dangerous? contained in food, which is initially considered not the most useful for our bodies.
Since monosodium glutamate is the most common “nut”, researchers also pay the most attention to this supplement.
Monosodium glutamate is found naturally in Kombu seaweed, celery, fish and meat. It would seem that this makes it completely harmless to humans. But its danger lies in the fact that, according to many researchers, its synthetic counterpart is addictive, and after E621, natural food seems insipid and tasteless. In addition, some people react to products with monosodium glutamate with headaches and increased sweating.
Trials using monosodium glutamate were carried out at different times by American and Japanese researchers. In particular, the American neurophysiologist John Olney, back in the 70s of the last century, determined that the brain is damaged in rats using E621, and the Japanese Oguro hypothesized that this substance destroys the retina in experimental animals.
Regardless of how one or another additive affects the body, all flavor enhancers cause an identical reaction - chronic overeating. Food rich in flavor enhancers likes the brain and sends signals to eat it more and more. So we begin to overeat, as a result of which obesity and the consequences associated with it develop.
The same supplement is often cited as the culprit in severe allergies, muscle disease, fever, and visual impairment in children.
It is clear that monosodium glutamate in one serving of food is contained in minimal quantities (if you give a lot of additives, the product will become incredibly salty and inedible). That is, one serving of "improved" food will not harm the body, but if such products are consumed regularly, then there is a real risk to health.
Smell Enhancers: An Overview
If a product's ingredient list contains an E-additive with an index between 620 and 637, it is safe to say that the food has been flavored by artificial means. As a rule, substances of this group are used together with flavor enhancers. Many unscrupulous manufacturers and distributors use "yes" to mask the unpleasant smell of spoiled products (most often used for meat and fish).
Meanwhile, even this group of food additives can hardly be called completely safe for the human body, since in the process of extraction these substances undergo many chemical processes. In addition, it is very rare that the finished product contains exclusively natural flavors: as a rule, natural additives are enhanced with synthetic ones.
Flavors that are identical to natural are already the result of the work of chemists who artificially created a smell that resembles natural. Synthetic odor improvers have no analogues in nature at all. For artificial flavors, unlike natural ones, a more pronounced smell is characteristic, which does not disappear so quickly. But at the same time, high humidity or exposure to high temperatures can affect the effectiveness of synthetic odor enhancers.
Of the group of flavorings, the most popular are potassium glutamate, sodium inosinate, maltol and etymaltol. Monosodium gluamate, which has already been mentioned, also has the ability to enhance the flavor of foods. In particular, E621 is added to products with a fairly long shelf life.
It is known that over time, food begins to lose its original flavor. This is where odor enhancers like monosodium glutamate come in.
For this reason, enhancers are often found in low-grade frozen meats and semi-finished products intended for long-term storage.
In addition, flavor enhancers are commonly used by confectionery manufacturers. For example, substances such as ethyl maltol and maltol are used when it is necessary to enhance a creamy or fruity aroma. Maltol is often combined with saccharin or cyclamate to eliminate the off-taste of these sweeteners. In fact, most diet sweets contain artificial flavor enhancers.
Are flavorings dangerous?
How do we choose our food? First of all, its aroma. Artificial additives can enhance or even completely change the smell of a product, thereby affecting the consumer's brain, who, having smelled a favorite aroma, is unable to refuse a purchase. But behind an appetizing aroma, not the highest quality and not the most useful product can be hidden, which is much more dangerous than microdoses of the “yeshka” itself.
Meanwhile, many of the E-supplements in this group, especially when used regularly, are very dangerous to health. Some of them can cause severe allergies, tachycardia, visual impairment, and cause malfunctions of the nervous and cardiovascular systems. But what's even worse is that the effect of some "nuts" on human bodies is still not studied, and they, nevertheless, continue to be used in the food industry, adding "horse" portions to our favorite products.
It is clear that neither natural meat, nor fresh fish, nor other healthy and high-quality products need chemicals that improve their taste and aroma. But fast food, noodles, instant mashed potatoes and soups without flavors and flavor enhancers, not many would dare to eat. The presence of additives with indexes 600-699 in the product can often be regarded as evidence of not the best quality. In addition, it is alarming that some of the additives are allowed in some countries, while in others they are strictly prohibited. It is also terrible that many, even knowing about the dangers posed by “yeshki”, continue to consume “improved” food themselves in large portions and feed it to their children, without thinking about the consequences.