They’re hiding in many food products from bread and pasta to milk and meat, but now eight of the most harmful food additives have been summarised and revealed.

The team behind online healthy food retailer MuscleFood.com have researched and compiled a list of the most common nasties found in everyday foods, revealing just how they can affect our bodies and brains.

From causing minor headaches, fatigue and allergies to contributing towards major health risks like heart disease and cancer, most of the food products found in the average supermarket will contain some potentially harmful ingredients.

A spokesperson for MuscleFood.com commented: “Many people will have heard terms like ‘MSG’ and ‘high fructose corn syrup’ being thrown around – but how many of these people actually know what they mean?

“Whilst it’s unrealistic to think you can avoid these additives altogether, it’s a good idea to be mindful of what they are and where they’re found so you can cut down your consumption.

“High processed, fatty foods are rife with these kinds of nasties but even seemingly ‘whole’ foods may have been tampered with in some way.”

Nitrates/nitrites

Nitrates are a synthetic food preservative often added to cured meat like bacon. When nitrates are exposed to high heat during the cooking process, they convert to nitrites which, when combined with different types of amines – which are found in everything from cheese and wine to chocolate and fish – form cancer-causing nitrosamines.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is a flavour enhancer made up of components naturally found in our bodies, such as water, sodium and glutamate – but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Often used in seasonings, condiments, and crisps, it reportedly causes headaches, nausea and even seizures. It can also be referred to as “hydrolysed soy protein” or “autolyzed yeast”.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

This sweetener, made from corn, is popular with food manufacturers because it’s cheaper and sweeter than cane sugar, and it maintains its moisture while preserving freshness. This is all well and good, but it is also believed to contribute to heart disease and is extremely common in processed food. In addition to accelerating the aging process, it also raises cholesterol and triglyceride fats in the blood, making it more prone to clotting.

Artificial Flavouring

This is essentially a catch-all term referring to man-made chemicals that have been created in a laboratory to taste the same as natural flavours such as vanilla, strawberry or lemon. It’s very common because it’s cheaper to use in most products, but they have been known to cause chest pains, headaches, fatigue, and allergies, and some studies suggest they can even cause changes in behaviour.

Aspartame

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener commonly used in diet drinks and some food products. Aspartame has been controversial for years and has been reported to cause seizures, headaches, mood disturbances, and even cancer.

Sodium Benzoate

Sodium Benzoate is used as a preservative in both drinks and food items and is often found in milk and meat products. When used in products that also contain food colourings – such as carbonated drinks – it may increase hyperactivity in children, and it can also react with vitamin C in food items like canned vegetables to create a cancer-causing substance called benzene.

Emulsifiers

Emulsifiers, made from vegetable fats, glycerol and organic acids, extend the shelf life of bread products and allow liquids that wouldn’t normally mix, such as oil and water, to combine smoothly. As a result, they’re often found in low-fat spreads, ice cream, margarine, salad dressings and many other creamy sauces. Studies suggest emulsifiers have the potential to damage the intestinal barrier, leading to inflammation and increasing our risk of chronic disease. Ingredient labels might simply list ‘emulsifiers’, but you should also look out for more specific terms such as ‘lecithin’, sorbitan monostearate’ and ‘mono-/di-glycerides or fatty acids’.

Ammonium Sulphate

Ammonium sulphate is an inorganic salt commonly used in the baking industry to improve the volume and shelf life of bread – but excessive consumption of the chemical can cause major short-term gastrointestinal disease.