A brain deceived by flavor

Can artificial flavor enhancers make us ill and fat? The unanimous opinion of the researchers: Yes! Because these additives not only deceive our sense of taste, but they also manipulate our brain.

It's a creepy mechanism: Every day we consume artificial flavors with our food, which then influence our eating behavior and our metabolism. In Europe alone, more than 250,000 tons of these substances are processed in food.

Miscellaneous vegetables processed with a syringe

What's "taste" exactly?

In order to understand why artificial flavors pose a danger, first we must first clarify how flavor develops and how it functions.
Food intake is basic to human survival. Taste plays an important role, because only if food intake results in a positive experience, will food be consumed regularly.
Yet taste cannot be reduced just to "tastes good" or "tastes bad." Taste has a much broader effect: It provides the body and brain with valuable information that ensures survival. It is intended to protect the body from toxic and inedible foods and to prepare the digestive system for the processing of food by releasing appropriate enzymes and hormones.
Taste is an interplay of many different sensory impressions that come together in the brain. Taste and odor receptors are also directly linked to the brain's emotional center. Stored memories are also used to decide whether we find a meal delicious or not.
When we put food in our mouth, the brain decides almost instantly whether that food is edible. The taste buds located on the tongue are responsible for this task and can differentiate among four properties: Sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Due to evolution, sweet and salty are classified as edible, sour and bitter as poisonous. However, 80 percent of taste is perceived through our smell. The smell of food is therefore another testing ground for quality. If it smells spoiled, for example, we don't even put the food in our mouth. The appearance of a food also allows conclusions to be drawn about freshness and quality. And last but not least, the consistency of a food must match our expectations in order to create a good mouthfeel.

The effect of artificial flavors and flavor enhancers

In the US there exist about 10,000 chemicals listed as food additives. False signals produced by these substances can change the body's own mechanisms for recognizing foods and distributing energy, and can lead to errors in the brain. Such errant triggers can influence our brain "software," at first unnoticed. In the long run, however, such misinformation can trigger diseases such as Alzheimer's, osteoporosis or obesity, in the latter case by manipulating the energy balance. Artificial flavors encourage us to eat much more than the body and brain actually need, leading to obesity. At the same time our taste buds are dulled by the many aromas, requiring more -- and more intense -- taste impressions. This reduces our ability to distinguish flavors among various foods.

Sweeteners make us fat!

The example of the artificial sweetener aspartame will explain how sweeteners can make us fat. Our tastebuds transmit a "sweet" signal to the brain, but chemicals replaces glucose and our brain demands the energy from which it was cheated. Yet the body has already begun to release insulin to process the supposed glucose and erroneously lowers the blood sugar level, which in turn leads to cravings. So it is not surprising that sweeteners are used as a fattening agent in pig breeding. Like aspartame, other artificial flavorings and flavor enhancers reprogram the metabolism. Or they work on a biochemical level, where they can destroy nerves or damage organs in the long term.

Substances that should absolutely be avoided

Glutamate: A flavor enhancer that attacks our brains
Aspartame: A sweetener that makes us fat
Citric acid: A transporter of dangerous neurotoxins
Phosphoric acid: A de-mineralizer of bones and teeth
Cyclamate: A sweetener banned in the USA that makes people fat and is suspected of causing cancer

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