What is BHT and is it safe for human consumption
BHA and BHT are antioxidants. Oxygen reacts preferentially with BHA or BHT rather than oxidizing fats or oils, thereby protecting them from spoilage. In addition to being oxidizable, BHA and BHT are fat soluble. Both molecules are incompatible with ferric salts. In addition to preserving foods, BHA and BHT are also used to preserve fats and oils in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
What foods contain BHA and BHT?
BHA is generally used to keep fats from becoming rancid. It is also used as a yeast de foaming agent. BHA is found in butter, meats, cereals, chewing gum, baked goods, snack foods, dehydrated potatoes, and beer. It is also found in animal feed, food packaging, cosmetics, rubber products, and petroleum products.
BHT also prevents oxidative rancidity of fats. It is used to preserve food odor, color, and flavor. Many packaging materials incorporate BHT. It is also added directly to shortening, cereals, and other foods containing fats and oils.
Both BHA and BHT have undergone the additive application and review process required by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, the same chemical properties which make BHA and BHT excellent prese nike running rvatives may also be implicated in health effects. The oxidative characteristics and/or metabolites of BHA and BHT may contribute to carcinogenicity or tumorigenicity; however the same reactions may combat oxidative stress. There is evidence that certain persons may have difficulty metabolizing BHA and BHT, resulting in health and behavior changes. BHA and BHT may have antiviral and antimicrobial activities. Research is underway concerning the use of BHT in the treatment of herpes simplex and AIDS.
References and Additional Reading
This is a fairly long list of online references. While the chemistry and effectiveness of BHA, BHT, and other additives within food is pretty straightforward, the controversy surrounding health effects is hot, so several points of view are available. Where possible, I have tried to note when a site has included references for its statements.
Additive Sensitivity This is the About Allergy section devoted to the health effects of additives.
Adverse Effects of Some Ingredients This table summar nike running izes the health effects reported for dyes and preservatives, including many food colors, BHA, BHT, sodium benzoate, nitrates, nitrites, and monosodium glutamate. Either input the name of the substance or find an allergen from one of their categories.
Are Your Medications Making You Sick? Judy Tidwell article discusses the effects nike running of inactive ingredients in medications. Did you know BHA and BHT may be used as fillers in vitamin and mineral supplements?
Bioassay of Butylated Hydroxytoluene for Carcinogenicity This is the abstract for NTIS PB29 8539/AS, which includes a summary of the results of the study, diagrams of BHT, and an explanation of methods and analysis.
BHT for Herpes Simplex and AIDS This site discusses the clinical applications of BHT for the treatment of herpes simplex and AIDS, toxicology and carcinogenicity of BHT, the effects of BHT on clotting, and the precautions to be used when taking BHT. Cited studies are extensively referenced.
Chemical Cuisine: CSPI Guide to Food Additives This site includes a glossary, explanation of cancer testing, alphabetical listing of additives, and a list of additives that have been banned.
Common Food Additives CNN In Depth provides this chart listing additives and their chemistry, uses, common products containing the additives, and reported side effects.
Do Food Additives Subtract from Health? This is a Businessweek article about the effects of additive on health. References are cited in text. One take home message is that defining a substance in a drug as or just means the substance and presumably its metabolites don compromise a drug effectiveness. The substance need not be in biochemical reactions.
FDA Almanac Fiscal Year 1997 The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition provides an overview of its responsibilities; description of food safety concerns and tools for ensuring food safety; description of microbiological safety concerns and activities; chemical safety mission statement; summary of food and color additive petitions; statement on research and monitoring of pesticides and contaminants; statement on nutrition, food labeling, and food formulation; summary of cosmetics and color certification; and statement concerning industry, academic, and government partnerships.
Food Additives This 1992 Food and Drug Administration brochure answers frequently asked questions about food additives. The FAQs are very thorough, but no references are provided.
Food Additives Are They Safe? The Cooperative Extension of the College of Agriculture Life Sciences at the University of Arizona offers this article, which emphasizes the reasons additives are used and a list of steps that can be taken to minimize accidental exposure to contaminants. References are listed.
Food Allergies Rare but Risky The US FDA distinguishes betweem food allergies and intolerances and identifies several additives (specifically aspartame, monosodium glutamate, sulfites, and FD Yellow No. 5 or tartrazine) known to cause reactions in susceptible persons. Information and suggestions of ways to avoid food reactions are given, along with links for additional information.
Food and Asthma Asthma Guide John Neil Rhoades article includes a list of several foods and additives associated with asthma and chemical sensitivity as well as links to additional resources.
Fresh Look at Food Preservatives Judith E. In addition to an overview of preservative use and regulation, she specifically discusses BHA, BHT, and sulfites.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Homepage This site discusses the inability of damaged nervous tissue to metabolize specific toxins. This article includes aspartame (an artificial sweetener), benzoic acid (a preservative), BHA and BHT, cochineal extract (a natural color additive), MSG (monosodium glutamate an additive added to enhance flavor), nitrates and nitrites (preservatives), sulfites (preservatives), and tartrazi nike running ne (a color additive).
Some Studies on BHT and BHA The Feingold Association maintains this collection of links to references. Excerpts from selected articles are included.
Summary of Color Additives Listed for Use in the United States in Foods, Drugs, Cosmetics, and Medical Devices This is the US FDA comprehensive list of additives, year approved, and uses and restrictions. It isn BHA/BHT related, but it is a handy resource.
The Feingold Association of the United States The Feingold Association provides extensive information about the effects of petroleum derived additives and salicylates (both natural and synthetic) on the behavior/health of susceptible persons. There are links to papers and other references as well as to information about the organization and Feingold diet.