Doctors warn children, pregnant women to avoid foods with additives
Many people find the idea of a packaged soup you can cook at home in just five minutes attractive. In fact, many times, packaged soup can be a lifesaver of sorts for working women, people with small babies, bachelors, students or just anyone looking for a fast kitchen solution. But experts warn of the health dangers many of these ready-made soups can pose, even when they don't include preservatives in their ingredients, because many of these soups also include the much-debated monosodium glutamate (MSG), an additive often used to improve the flavor of foods.
Often companies feel that they must include MSG in order to compensate for taste lost during the processing and packaging involved in giving these sorts of soups a long shelf life. Experts warn of the dangers in particular for pregnant women, nursing mothers and small children when it comes to food items with additives such as MSG.
In addition to the wide variety of attractively packaged ready-made soups that are available these days, additives such as MSG can also be found in chocolate, chips, biscuits, sodas, bouillon cubes and sauces, regardless of whether these items are salty or sweet. Thanks to glutamate, which may normally taste repulsive to most people, pre-packaged food becomes attractive.
Gastroenterology expert Dr. Hakan Güveli from Medical Park Göztepe Hospital notes that all sorts of additives, from flavor enhancers to coloring agents, can increase the production of acid in the stomach. The result, he says, is that normal digestive processes can be disrupted. “In fact, sometimes we see people who have acid-reflux disease because of these additives, and other times, these additives can even pave the way for stomach tumors. We are always on the side of whatever is natural because the stomach is very sensitive and reacts very quickly. We never recommend eating foods that contain additives or fake sweeteners,” he adds.
Glutamate is actually found naturally in foods such as meat, cheese, milk, peas and mushrooms but not at high enough levels to cause allergic reactions. Nutrition and diet expert Gizem Keservuran notes that additives such as MSG that are found in many packaged foods these days can not only act as carcinogens but can also have a very negative effect on the nervous system. “We need to become more aware of how important it is to keep children in particular away from foods sold at markets that contain all of these additives. We need to learn to teach them to eat more healthily and to choose the right foods. Pregnant and nursing women must stay as far away as possible from fast foods and these sorts of packaged foods,” she says.
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Pointing to the changing environmental conditions surrounding people these days, Professor Adnan Yüksel, a pediatric expert and neurologist, says: “Seeing as that people's genes are not changing, we need to examine our polluted air, water and food. These work together to change the dynamics of our DNA.” The doctor advises people to stay away from genetically modified foods and foods with flavor enhancers. He has strict warnings in particular for pregnant women. “Before the child is born, there is very rapid development. During this period, anything toxic or unnatural has a very serious effect. Ingredients are added to some foods to increase the flavor, but these are foods that are not natural. Our consumption of these sorts of foods is causing certain diseases and ruining our systems,” he says.
Dr. Russell L. Blaylock devotes much time and energy to MSG in his recent book, “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills,” in which he warns just how widely additives such as MSG are used in foods ranging from hot dogs, pasta and cheese to chips, ready-made soups and diet foods. “Additives used in the food eaten by pregnant women, such as MSG and aspartate (NutraSweet), could cause miswiring of the developing brain of their babies, should these excitotoxins pass through the placenta,” he writes. What do producers of these pre-packaged soups say?
Speaking for Knorr packaged soups, Unilever nutrition expert Berat Nursal Tosun states that people metabolize MSG and the glutamate found naturally in foods the same way. "There is no difference between the glutamate found naturally in tomatoes and MSG. All sources of glutamate turn into free glutamate once in the intestines. MSG has been studied and researched for years now by all sorts of international organizations and has been approved as completely dependable and trustable,” says Tosun.
Ülker has also announced that its Bizim Mutfak ready-made soups contain safe-to-consume MSG levels, reminding people in a statement that “In 1991, the European Commission's Scientific Committee for Food [SCF] confirmed that glutamate additives were safe, not even feeling the necessity to add this to its ‘acceptable daily consumption' list.”
Ready-made soup label Maggi, which is produced by Nestlé, declined to comment on this issue. Officials from Tukaş noted that after this year, they will no longer be a part of the dried-food sector and thus also declined to comment.