So I was eating a bowl of cereal the other day and I had a sudden urge to check the ingredients list for any partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, MSG or red dye. Then I began checking all the cereal boxes (I had four boxes of cereal, a little excessive I know but I like variety. Hahaha) and none of them contained MSG or high fructose corn syrup. And one box contained both red dye and “ less than 2% partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” All four boxes of cereal contained salt, which is weird since cereal is typically sweet. I just assumed it is used as a preservative but the last ingredient on all but one box was labeled “BHT (To preserve freshness).” Because I already knew all the other ingredients on the box I decided to research BHT.
Butylated hydroxyl-toluene (or BHT) is a synthetic form of Vitamin E, derived form petroleum. BHT is commonly used as a preservative in foods containing fat. (Gross! There is fat in my cereal) It increases the shelf life by up to one year. BHT is also used in fuel oils, rubber and the cosmetic industry.
There is so much controversy on whether BHT has a negative impact on individuals. Depending on what article you read BHT is either a stone cold killer or a lifesaver. I have rummaged through so many webpages some that claimed that BHT cause cancer, hyperactivity in children, and even decrease the risk of cancer. I even read a comment on a blog where a person said that they were taking BHT supplements to prevent cancer (scary right?). The amounts of BHT present in foods are claimed to be insignificant to cause affects.
According to the FDA it is notable that BHT enlarges the liver, (Pause. The thought of a chemical enlarging my organs is extremely scary. A total red flag for me.) Although further research is needed for additional effects. BHT is said to have an effect on the development of fetuses in utero although most of the studies have been done on rats. As for cosmetics BHT does penetrate the skin but it stays within the layers of the skin and has not been shown to produce systemic effects.
During this process I realized that there is a lot of misconception out there and everyone has an opinion. But after all the webpages and research it still remains that there is not enough studies in either direction to conclude the safety of BHT. And it is hard to take some of the claims serious if the study is done on rats because who’s to say that it will have the same impact on humans. With all that said, the main concern still persists:
So is BHT safe?
The simple answer, it’s complicated.
The conclusion I have formed is that the exact effects that BHT will have on an individual are uncertain. And it is that uncertainty that will govern my future decisions. As you may have recognized, I am trying to eat foods with as many natural ingredients as possible. Because BHT is man made and can possibly have harmful effects I am choosing to stay away from this ingredient.