The truth about how many chemicals are ineverything we eat
All foods - and everything else around us - are madeup of chemicals, whether they occur in nature or aremade in a lab.
The idea that there is a difference between "natural"chemicals, like those found in fruits and vegetables,and the synthetic version of those chemicals is just abad way of looking at the world. There are many chemicals in our food's natural flavours andcolours. Some of them have long, scary-sounding names, too.
That means everything we smell or taste is a response to chemicals. The characteristic smellof cloves, for example, comes from one chemical called eugenol. And cinnamon, which is just thedried inner-bark of specific trees, gets its aroma and flavor from the compoundcinnamaldehyde.So, both artificial and natural flavours contain chemicals. The distinctionbetween natural and artificial flavourings is the source of chemicals.
Natural flavours are created from anything that can be eaten, like animals and vegetables, evenif those edible things are processed in the lab to create flavourings.
Artificial flavours come from anything that is inedible, such as petroleum, that is processed tocreate chemicals of flavourings.
Sometimes a chemical flavouring could be made from either natural or artificial sources - theresulting molecule is the same, but the route to making it can be different.
The compound vanillin, for example, is responsible for the flavour and smell of vanilla. Innature, vanillin comes from an orchid native to Mexico. But the process of extracting this pure,natural chemical is extremely lengthy and expensive. So scientists found a way to make asynthetic version of vanillin in a lab.
In 2006, Japanese researcher Mayu Yamamoto figured out how to extract vanillin from cowpoop. She was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize at Harvard University for this development.
Most people don't realise that there can be as many chemicals in a food's natural flavour as itsartificial counterpart. The number of chemical ingredients used to make the artificialstrawberry flavour in a fast food strawberry shake, for example, is similar, chemically to thenumber of chemicals in a fresh strawberry.
Artificial grape flavour is derived from a chemical in concord (purple) grapes - not the red orgreen grapes we're used to buying in supermarkets. This is why artificial grape-flavouredthings like candy and soft drinks are purple and why store-bought grapes taste nothing like thisfake stuff.
Many people worry about "chemicals" like MSG added to their foods. The link betweenheadaches and MSG, called "Chinese restaurant syndrome," is just a myth. Researchers thinkthat symptoms related to eating Chinese food are caused by high amounts of salt.