Are BHA and BHT bad for you?
The foods we consume can have different kinds of compounds in them that we didn’t know about. These compounds added to the foods we eat are not always detectable. For instance certain compounds can be listed on the nutrition label and we can’t even taste or see them. Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene, also known as BHA and BHT, are both phenolic compounds that are added to certain foods in order to preserve fats and oils. Even though these compounds are used to preserve the foods we eat, how do we know that BHA and BHT aren’t bad for us? Even though BHA and BHT have minimal negative effects, they are outweighed by many beneficial attributes and are not bad for us. Knowing what these compounds are made of, what their functions are, and how they work will help in answering this central question. Even though BHA and BHT both have the same function, they have different characteristics. “BHA is a mixture of the isomers 3-tert-butyl-4-hydroxyanisole and 2-tert-butyl-4-hydroxyanisole, also known as BOA.” The molecular formula of BHA is C11H16O2. BHA can be a yellow tainted or white waxy solid and can have an aromatic odor. BHT “also known as 3, 5-di-tert-butyl-4-hydroxytoluene; methyl-di-tert-butylphenol; 2, 6-di-tert-butyl-para-cresol,” has a molecular formula of C15H240. BHT physically looks like a white powder. Even though BHA and BHT are used for the same things, BHA is more stable at higher temperatures than BHT so it is used more. There are other antioxidants that can be used like NDGA but they are more expensive than BHA and BHT. BHA and BHT can be found in certain foods or can be found in certain food packaging. BHA and BHT do not have to be directly put into food and products to work. They can be placed in the packaging of food and will have the same effect. These compounds have not only been used to preserve food, but animal feed and some cosmetic products as well. Without BHA and BHT the foods we eat and products containing fats and oils would not be preserved as long as they could be. The use of BHA and BHT enables us to consume foods for a longer period of time. These compounds are antioxidants. “Oxygen reacts preferentially with BHA or BHT rather than oxidizing fats or oils, thereby protecting them from spoilage.” BHA and BHT are placed either in or inside the packaging of foods so the oxygen reacts with these compounds instead of reacting with the food which in turn will spoil it. In a sense BHA and BHT slow down the oxidizing of fats and oils because eventually most food expires or goes bad and becomes inedible. BHA and BHT are also “fat soluble and are incompatible with ferric salts.” Since BHA and BHT prevent the fat and oils in food from spoiling, they also prevent the fat and oils in some cosmetic products from spoiling. In addition to preserving cosmetics BHA and BHT are also used in certain pharmaceuticals to be prevented from oxidizing. BHA and BHT can be found in many different kinds of food products. They can be found in “breakfast cereals, snack food, chewing gum, vegetable oils, shortening, potato flakes, granules and chips, enriched rice, and candy.” BHA and BHT can be found in certain cosmetics like lipstick, lotion, and moisturizers as well. These compounds are also placed inside the packaging of foods. Sometimes when opening a snack or box of food there is a little white package that says “DO NOT EAT” or “THROW AWAY” on it. It is usually a white or clear substance inside. Those packages are silica gel, which are similar to BHA and BHT because they are all used in preserving foods, except silica gel is not used in foods and is not safe to consume. BHA and BHT compounds are also found in rubber and petroleum products, and animal feed. Sometimes you can see if a food or product contains BHA or BHT when reading the nutrition label. On the nutrition label sometimes it will say “BHT has been...
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