Many processed foods contain ingredients listed as “natural flavors” or “artificial flavors”. Most people think that natural flavors are better than artificial, but they are not. Both are produced in a laboratory using synthetic chemicals.
The only difference is that “natural flavors” are similar to those found in real food, while artificial flavors are chemicals that do not exist in nature. Both natural and artificial flavors are usually made from petroleum--not the healthiest food choice.
There are literally hundreds of these chemicals that can be legally added to food. The bad news is that food manufacturers do not have to list them individually. So when you see “flavoring” mentioned on the label, the product may contain one chemical or a few dozen of them.
Food in its natural state contains natural substances that give it a unique smell and taste. Think of an orange or a banana.
Modern chemical engineers found a way to combine unnatural susbstances to mimic the natural taste of foods. For example, octyl acetate is used to create an orange flavor, and isoamyl acetate has banana flavor.
There are hundreds of such chemicals that can be used to create virtually any taste, such as grape, cherry, orange, banana, apple, and so on.
Both “natural” and artificial flavors are considered “safe” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is why they are allowed to be added to food. But most of them have not been studied for safety or toxicity, especially when combined together.
The fact is that they can be dangerous to our health. They may cause allergies, have negative effect on the thyroid gland, chromosomes, and enzymes. They have been linked to indigestion, headaches, chest pain, fatigue, irritation of gastrointestinal tract, and other health problems.
Some (borneol) may cause seizures, confusion and dizziness. Carvacrol (oregano flavor) has been linked to problems with breathing and circulation and even heart failure. Cinnamyl formate (cinnamon flavor) can irritate skin, gastrointestinal tract, affect the kidneys and caused cancer in mice.
Since there are literally hundreds of different chemicals used as flavorings, the list of potential side effects is a long one. The best thing you can do is avoid any food that has flavoring as one of the ingredients, even if it says “natural.” If you see the word “flavor” on the label, put it back.
Eat real food instead. Want strawberry flavor? Eat strawberry. What banana flavor? Eat a banana. You get the idea.