Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Are You Eating Anti Freeze?

Is Propylene Glycol a Healthy Additive?

Propylene glycol is a substance commonly used as a food additive or ingredient in many cosmetic and hygiene products.The U.S. and European food authorities have declared it as generally safe for use in foods. However, it has become controversial since it is also an ingredient in antifreeze. This had led to health concerns about possible toxic effects from eating foods that contain it and putting it on your skin.  

Propylene glycol is a synthetic food additive that belongs to the same chemical group as alcohol. It is a colorless, odorless, slightly syrupy liquid that is a bit thicker than water.  In foods, propylene glycol may be used in the following ways:
    •    Anti-caking agent: It helps prevent food components from sticking to one another and forming clumps, such as in dried soups or grated cheese.
    •    Antioxidant: It extends the shelf life of foods by protecting them against deterioration caused by oxygen.
    •    Carrier: It dissolves other food additives or nutrients to be used in processing, such as colors, flavors or antioxidants.
    •    Dough strengthener: It modifies the starches and gluten in dough to make it more stable.
    •    Emulsifier: It prevents food ingredients from separating, such as oil and vinegar in salad dressing.
    •    Moisture preserver: It helps foods maintain a stable level of moisture and stops them from drying out. Examples include marshmallows, coconut flakes and nuts.
    •    Processing aid: It is used to enhance the appeal or the use of a food, for example, to make a liquid clearer.
    •    Stabilizer and thickener: It can be used to hold food components together or thicken them during and after processing.
    •    Texturizer: It can change the appearance or feel of a food.
Propylene glycol is commonly found in many packaged foods, such as drink mixes, dressings, dried soups, cake mix, soft drinks, popcorn, food coloring, fast foods, bread and dairy products 

It is also used in injectable medications, like lorazepam, and in some creams and ointments that are applied to the skin, such as corticosteroids. 

Due to its chemical properties, it is also found in a wide variety of hygiene and cosmetic products. Additionally, it is used in industrial products like paint, antifreeze, artificial smoke and e-cigarettes. 

Propylene glycol is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (reference).  In the US, it can be used as a direct and indirect food additive. In Europe, it is only allowed to be used in food as a solvent for colors, emulsifiers, antioxidants and enzymes, 

The World Health Organization recommends a maximum intake of 11.4 mg of propylene glycol per pound of body weight (25 mg/kg) per day. The estimated exposure to propylene glycol through foods in the US is 15 mg per pound (34 mg/kg) per day. (reference)

When consumed in toxic quantities, the buildup of lactic acid can lead to acidosis and specifically bothers the kidneys. Acidosis occurs when the body cannot get rid of the acid fast enough. It begins to build up in the blood, which interferes with proper functioning. At toxic levels, propylene glycol has been found to cause neurological symptoms. There have also been cases of nausea, vertigo and strange sensations.

The American Contact Dermatitis Society has stated that 0.8 and 3.5% of people are estimated to have a skin allergy to propylene glycol (reference). The most common skin reaction, or dermatitis, is the development of a rash. People who already have sensitive skin are at particular risk of allergy to this additive. For people with allergic dermatitis, it is best to avoid all sources of propylene glycol. 

While propylene glycol is generally considered safe by our government agencies, it makes sense to choose to avoid it as much as possible.  It is found in many different food products and can be identified by checking the ingredients list. The names it may be listed under include:
    •    Propylene glycol
    •    Propylene glycol mono and diester
    •    E1520 or 1520

Common foods include soft drinks, marinades and dressings, cake mix, frosting, popcorn, food coloring, fast foods, bread and dairy products.  Unfortunately, if propylene glycol is used as a carrier or solvent for another additive, such as flavor or color instead of a direct ingredient, it may not be listed on the food label.

However, the majority of foods containing it are highly processed junk foods. By consuming a fresh, healthy, whole foods diet, you can avoid most sources without too much trouble.
You can also check the labels of cosmetic products, though avoiding it may be difficult. There are several helpful websites that can help you identify which products contain it.

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