In our latest Scavenge-ology episode, we dove into research covering the common ingredient TBHQ. This kicks off a mini series titled 'Ingredient Label Deep Dive' where we uncover hidden facts behind ingredients on our PrimalRock 'Banned Ingredient List'.
TBHQ stands for tert-butylhydroquinone or tertiary butylhydroquinone. These long-winded words and difficult pronunciations make it clear as to why we see this listed on products in its short and sweet version: TBHQ. The main function of TBHQ is to extend shelf-life and prevent food from going rancid. It accomplishes this by preventing fat oxidation. Have you seen the McDonald's Experiment? McDonald's foods left out for 6 YEARS show no signs of rotting! Here's an image from The Today Show featuring the food.
Preservatives in foods are no secret in America today. When browsing the snack aisle, it is more difficult to find foods without harsh chemical preservatives than to find snack foods with them. However, preservatives like TBHQ are actually banned in countries like Japan. This makes it interesting to learn that TBHQ in our country is found in common fats, like vegetable oils, and a wide range of processed foods. Have you read the ingredient statement for a Reese's Cup lately You guessed it...
However, food is not the only place that you will find TBHQ! It can be found in paints, skincare products, and other topical products that are not consumable.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) determines what is safe, and what is not, for US consumers. They place a limit on how much of a specific additive we can consume when there is evidence that large quantities may be harmful or if there is a lack of safety known. When it comes to TBHQ, the FDA has placed a .02% limit on items' total fat and oil content because there is not evidence that anything above this limit is safe to consume.
According to Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) a well-designed government study found that TBHQ increased the incidence of tumors in rats. There have also been reports to the NLM or National Library of Medicine, of vision disturbances, liver enlargement, neurotoxic effects, convulsions, and even paralysis in laboratory animals when consumed in large amounts. TBHQ is linked to allergies, skin issues, and more. Some believe that TBHQ can also affect human behavior, specifically in those with ADHD. It is on the Do Not Consume list of the Feingold Diet.
Despite the .02% limit declared by the FDA, research shows that Americans are still consuming more than they should. A 1999 study showed that the average intake was about .62 mg/kg of body weight. Which is 90% of the daily intake. In those with high fat diets, TBHQ was at 1.2 mg/kg of body weight. That is 180% of the acceptable intake! This makes sense when we consider that some Americans eat more processed foods than others. If someone is eating a day full of processed snacks, it makes sense that they would be well over the daily limit.
As mentioned on the podcast, it is very interesting to compare the ingredient lists of conventional versus organic products. The ingredients shared below by FoodBabe on Instagram, compare two Reese's ingredient statements of organic versus conventional Reese's. This shows that it is possible to create and manufacture healthier products, however sadly in our country the norm is to produce mass products at the cheapest cost, for the longest shelf-life.
Clearly, this ingredient is something that we want to stay away from in our daily diets. There are several simple ways to do this!