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The 9 Scariest Food Additives You're Eating Right Now

Some of the so-called healthy snack foods and packaged goods you're tossing into your grocery cart each week may be filled with "extras" that can, in the long term, put your health at risk. Check out our rundown of the top nutrition label offenders—then

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Everyone knows to keep an eye out for calories, fat and carbs when they're browsing the supermarket aisles, but are you paying attention to the little known, flavor-enhancing, often lab-generated chemicals that manufacturers are pumping into your food to cut costs and keep you hooked? Just because it isn't making you fat doesn't mean it's not rotting you from the inside-out. If you look out for only nine ingredients the next time you go shopping for food, make them these.

1. PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED OIL This nemesis of heart health is the primary source of trans fat. Manufacturers like it because it reduces costs, increases shelf life and stabilizes flavor, but it's a lose-lose for consumers. Trans fats are twice as difficult for the body to dissolve as saturated fats, and because they boost bad (LDL) cholesterol and have been shown to decrease good (HDL) cholesterol, they're active agents of heart disease, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies and cellular deterioration. Note: Products that contain partially hydrogenated oils, but have less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving can carry a “trans-fat free” label. Also keep in mind that “fully hydrogenated oil” does not contain trans fats. Bottom Line: Avoid foods containing trans fats, including margarine, vegetable shortening, crackers, cookies, baked goods, salad dressings, breads and chips.

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS Not so sweet after all?
Sucralose (Splenda) Advertised as "natural" because it's made from sugar, but scientists replace three hydrogen-oxygen molecules with chlorine atoms and change its chemical composition. Saccharin (Sweet'N Low) Made from petroleum. There have been ongoing debates about whether it causes cancer, but the FDA said it was safe in 2010. Aspartame (Equal) A combination of two amino acids—phenylalanine and aspartic acid—hat's usually found in soft drinks. There have been rumors that it causes everything from brain tumors to Gulf War Syndrome, but the FDA has discounted all of these. Acesulfame-K (Sweet One) Two studies have linked it to cancer in rats.

2. HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP Though chemically similar to table sugar (sucrose), this cheaper alternative is a highly processed form of glucose converted into fructose—the type of sugar ordinarily found in fruit. The case against HFCS ranges from claims that it inhibits leptin—the hormone responsible for telling your brain that you're full—damages tissue and can contain toxic levels of mercury. The arguments against HFCS are inconclusive, but one thing is certain: too much sugar will harm bodily processes in countless ways, including increasing risk for diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders.

3. MSG It goes by many... many names: monosodium glutamate, maltodextrin, sodium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, autolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract and even citric acid. This leads to a sort of duck-and-cover effect, with more than 40 forms of this processed additive in grocery store aisles. MSG in all of its forms is considered a neurotoxin because it has been shown to damage nerve cells by overexciting them to the point of cell death. MSG is also a chemoinducer of obesity, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Bottom Line: It’s often found in canned soup, diet beverages, an array of popular fast food, packaged sausages and frankfurters, beef stew, instant soups, salad dressing and some packaged vegetarian foods.

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