Earlier this week, a client inquired about the “chemicals” in a certain low-calorie bread, and their potential health risks.   The client was curious, confused, and concerned.  A fear of the unknown is common when it comes to this type of situation.  However, the fact of the matter is that everything is a chemical…me, you, the food we eat; everything in our entire world is comprised of the same basic elements that bind together into more complex chemical forms.   Keeping this mind, here was my response to the client’s question:

  • Use a food nutrition label as a resource.   Every food product will have a listing of its ingredients, listed in order from the ingredient with the highest amount to the ingredient with the lowest amount.
  • An ingredient that has a complicated sounding name, which we cannot pronounce or haven’t heard of, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something that’s been created in a lab or has any harmful effects.  For example, here are 2 of the ingredients on the food label of the client’s bread that sound scary but are not:
    • Thiamin Mononitrate – It’s a chemical name for Vitamin B1
    • Powdered Cellulose – It’s part of a plant’s cell wall and contains insoluble fiber
  • “The dose makes the poison”.   Just because a potentially unhealthy chemical is present in a food does not mean it’s harmful.   Certain chemicals must be present in specific forms at a specifically high amount to cause us any harm.
  • Put things into context and consider the big picture.  Are you at a healthy body weight?   Are you physically active?   Are you eating at a reasonable calorie amount, consisting of predominately whole, unprocessed foods?   Are you eating enough protein and fiber?   Are you sleeping enough?   Are you drinking enough water?  Do you smoke or dink alcohol?  These factors are much more important overall than minor amounts of unpronounceable ingredients in one specific food.

I’ll leave you with the following website about a potentially dangerous chemical, dihydrogen monoxide.  It’s been associated with countless negative health outcomes, many of which are listed on the site, including death.

However, it’s important to know it’s a parody website that helps prove my point regarding the unwarranted fears of scary sounding chemical names.   The common name for dihydrogen monoxide?   It’s water.


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