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Common effects of food additives include protection against many foodborne diseases, longer product shelf lives, and flavor enhancement. Some types of artificial additives also add brighter colors to some foods. Many processed foods are made with large amounts of preservatives as a matter of convenience to consumers. These foods are often pre-cooked and frozen so that they can be heated quickly in a microwave oven. While these chemical ingredients have benefits, health experts also sometimes point out a few specific negative effects of food additives such as increased weight gain, possible malnutrition, and higher chances of developing food allergies to some of these artificial ingredients.
One of the more frequent effects of food additives is a more consistent texture in foods that contain several different ingredients. Separation can often happen in foods such as cakes and some salad dressings, which are prone to this problem if left to settle over time. Some additives known as emulsifiers prevent this problem and keep the mixtures even in these foods.
Preservation is also one of the key effects of food additives. Several different chemical ingredients such as sodium nitrate are mixed with some foods to stop the growth of harmful bacteria and prevent the products from spoiling after only a short time in storage. These additives are especially common in cured meats such as sausage and bacon. Various anti-microbial compounds and antioxidants are reported to lower the risks of contracting serious illnesses such as E coli bacterial infections. These types of preservatives are also considered economically sound measures that result in less food waste due to spoilage.
Enhanced flavors are additional effects of food additives, and many manufacturers add them to a wide range of products such as snack cakes and potato chips. One common additive is called monosodium glutamate (MSG) that some culinary experts report as the source of a fifth distinctive flavor called umami that is separate from natural salty, sweet, sour, or bitter tastes. Although MSG and similar additives can make many foods taste better, nutritionists often caution that these additives in large amounts can lead to weight gain and reduced ability of the digestive system to absorb needed nutrients.
Various dyes are added to processed foods in order to give them a more appealing look. Marketing experts often point out that the most appetizing-looking foods tend to sell more in both grocery stores and restaurants. Some studies have linked excessive consumption of certain food coloring to increased risks of cancer.