Ice Cream Please, But Hold the Wood. What's Really in Your Food?

in StemSociallast year (edited)

Vanilla Ice Cream
Vanilla ice cream MichalPL 4.0.jpg
Image credit: MichalPL. Used under a CC 4.0 license.

I love ice cream. If you look in my refrigerator, you will see several containers of vanilla ice cream, two brands. One brand, Häagen-Dazs, lists five ingredients on the label: cream, skim milk, cane sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. The other brand, Breyers, lists five also, but slightly different: milk, cream, sugar, vegetable gum (tara) and natural flavor. The only significant difference between the two lists is the inclusion of vegetable gum in the Breyers brand.

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A Little Wood with Your Pancakes?
One Producer Uses Wood Cellulose in Pancakes and Syrup.
Image credit, Pixabay

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Does the difference between the ice cream ingredients matter? It depends on who answers that questions. Industry representatives and regulating agencies say, no. Some researchers suggest otherwise. Non-digestible food additives have been linked to a variety of unhealthy conditions, including: intestinal distress, blockages, autoimmmune diseases, and even death.

Cellulose Gum (Carboxymethylcellulose), Common Food Additive
cellulose gum credit LHcheM 3.0.jpg
Image credit: LHcheM. Used under a CC 3.0 License

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icecream3158961_1920.pngWhy Is There Gum in My Ice Cream?

Simply put, gum is cheaper to use than nutritional ingredients. Without gum, more 'solid' material would have to be added to a product in order to insure satisfactory volume for the customer. As one food industry source explains, "...excessive increase of solid material content will increase the production cost and decrease the competitive power of products in the market".

The utility of indigestible additives lies in the fact that they are indigestible. They are designed to make their way through the digestive tract without being absorbed. They are pure bulk. They take up space, not only in the food, but in the gut. They give the consumer a sense of satiety, and yet add no caloric or nutritional value.

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sponge gif.gifAbsorb Water and Increase in Size
Because non-digestible food additives absorb water and increase in size, they offer a sense of fullness. It is for this reason they were considered in the past as ideal weight loss ingredients.

A diet pill made of guar gum, a common non-nutritive food additive, was marketed in the late 1980s. It was called Cal-Ban 3000, and promised the consumer a sense of fullness without adding calories to the diet.

Guar Seeds, From Which Guar Gum Is Made
Guar seeds credit Ton Rulkens from Mozambique 2.0.jpg
Image credit: Ton Rulkens fromMozambique. Used under a CC 2.0 license.

The consumption of Cal-Ban, according to the American Journal of Gastroenterology, resulted in many cases of esophageal and small bowl obstruction. The Journal cites cases in which all but one person affected survived surgical intervention. However, "the tenacious gel-like consistency of the material was often difficult to remove". These reported cases were "very similar to those reported in the literature."

Cal-Ban was eventually banned in countries across the world.

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Associated with Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Premature Infants

Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) is common in premature infants. The use of thickening agents in formula helps the food to go down more easily. However, one thickening agent, which contains indigestible gums (mainly xanthum gum), is associated with the development of late-onset necrotizing enterocolitis.
Formula for Full-Term Infant
Infant_formula credit National Institute of Korean Language 2.0.jpg
Image credit: National Institute of Korean Language. Used under CC 2.0 license.

According to Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology, necrotizing enterocolitis is the "most frequent and lethal disease of the gastrointestinal tract of preterm infants".

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Disrupting the Gut Microbiome
The concept of a gut microbiome has taken hold in the public consciousness. Yogurt and probiotics are widely consumed for the good of the microbiome. It might distress some in the probiotic-consuming public to know that indigestible food additives could be messing around with their microbiome. Of particular interest in this disruption is one microbe, R. gnavus.

In a healthy gut, mucus provides a protective barrier between the intestinal wall and bacteria. A breakdown in mucus would allow bacteria to penetrate the wall. This penetration could lead to all kinds of mischief, including inflammation.

Cross Section of Small Intestines
Cross_Section_of_a_Small_Intestine credit Jazlyn G 4.0.png

Up to 90% of all people have R.gnavus as part of their gut microbiome. R.gnavus has an appetite for mucin cells. Mucin produces mucus. Many studies have shown a strong correlation between elevated levels of R.gnavus in the gut and activation of inflammatory diseases--not just inflammatory diseases of the gut, but also systemic inflammatory diseases.

One of the systemic diseases associated with elevated levels of R.gnavus is SLE (lupus), especially if lupus nephritis is present. Other inflammatory conditions associated with R. gnavus are spondyloarthritis, and eczema in infants. Psoriatic arthritis is a form of spondyloarthritis.

Inflammation of the Spine From Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis spine jpg credit Fiona McQueen, Marissa Lassere and Mikkel Østergaard 2.jpg
Image credit: Fjiona McQueen, Marissa Lassere and Mikkel Ostergaard. Used under a CC 2.0 license.

An association between IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and elevated levels of R. gnavus has long been established.

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Of Mice, Emulsifiers and Mucus
Experiments on mice show disruptions in the gut microbiome when common food additives are introduced into the diet/water of the animals.

mouse credit PogrebnojAlexandroff free.JPG
Image credit: Pogrebnoj Alexandroff. Public domain.

One experiment involved supplementing the mouse intake by 1% with polysorbate-80 (P80) and carboxymethylcellulose, two emulsifiers commonly added to human foods in the same proportion. The result: after 12 weeks, a decrease in intestinal mucus thickness and an increase in microbiota R.gnavus and A. muciniphila.

polysorbate 80.jpg
Polysorbate 80 formula, credited to Edgar181: Public domain

Another study, published in SOJ Microbiol Infect Dis, showed that with the administration of emulsifier polysorbate 80, "glycemic tolerance disorder occurred, blood insulin level increased, hepatic enzyme level enhanced, hepatic mitochondria and gall bladder increased". Also there was a decrease in intestinal mucus and in the integrity of the intestinal wall. The authors of this study conclude that "emulsifier agents such as polysorbate-80, may be contributing to obesity related intestinal inflammation and progression of liver dysfunction and alternation of gut microbiota."

Lecithin Formulations
Lecithin formulations Helge Höpfner 3.0.jpg
Image credit: Helge Höpfner. Used under a CC 3.0 license.

Finally, in a summary of human and mouse studies, an article published in Wiley Nutrition Bulletin, points to an association between "very low concentrations of the food emulsifier polysorbate 80" and "intestinal inflammation and metabolic syndrome". The article goes on to suggest that the effects of polysorbate 80 may be "generalisable across all emulsifiers and detergents, including perhaps the natural emulsifier lecithin". The implications of this research, according to the authors, extend to a wide range of conditions, including obesity, heart disease and various syndromes associated with what has come to be be known as the Western Diet.

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Bagel with Cream Cheese and Salmon
cream cheese Bagel and salmon FranHogan 4.0.jpg
Image credit: Fran Hogan. Used under a CC 4.0 license.
Almost all commercially prepared cream cheese has an indigestible thickening agent added.

Indigestible food additives are almost ubiquitous in processed foods. Even the term 'organic' doesn't spare the consumer, because wood is natural and therefore may be organic.

Why are there two brands of ice cream in my freezer? Because, with COVID supply disruptions, Häagen-Dazs is in short supply. I cannot eat gums, and other thickeners. My husband does not have difficulty with them. He gets Breyers. I get Häagen-Dazs. In better times, we will both eat gum-free ice cream. (Don't be concerned about the caloric/fat content of this treat: the ice cream is mixed with four parts Fage plain, fat-free, additives).

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Thank you for reading my blog

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Selected Sources Used in Writing the Blog


Illustrations not credited in the blog

Accent ice cream cone: Pixabay
Accent sponge: Pixabay

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Interesting, well written, and well researched. I've always had my reservations about processed foods before now and your article further reinforce my beliefs. Of course, some amount of indigestible components is required in our foods as roughage. That's why I don't have issues with organic foods.

Thank you @gentleshaid for your visit and for those kind words. Of course we need fiber in our diet. That's one of the things missing in the so-called Western diet. But we need plants, like celery, and legumes in the natural state. Not chemically modified fiber. Not fiber that is designed to thicken and adhere to food. It's the chemical alterations that make the additives noxious.

I wish you and your family a Happy New Year. Let's hope 2021 is very different from 2020.🌟

I totally agree with you. When we are talking about diets being organic, perhaps we should be laying emphasis on naturally organic foods and not the artificial ones. Organic can be synthetic as well as natural. What do you think?

The rules are byzantine. Just slapping a label on something that says organic doesn't mean anything. You are right. We still have to check ourselves and do the work. Here's a link that describes some of the regulations in the U.S. Kind of fuzzy, I think.

There are so many borderlines in the rules which manufacturers can manipulative and still stay within the law. Not sure it can get more fuzzier than this.

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Incredible, it is good to read the specifications of the products, although many do not declare chemical additives, or the best option to make the ice cream at home

Thank you for the comment and kind words. I think in the U.S. there are laws requiring every single ingredient be listed, even salt. Hard to get around that. {Although 'vegetable gum' is not very specific).

Yes, ice cream would not be that difficult to make at home, I think. Just have to get used to doing it and then it would probably be pretty easy.

Happy New Year (I hope!)

All the food is poison.

I'm glad we're growing more and more of our own food... I just like to know where my food comes from, and we generally avoid anything pre-packaged, as much ae can. Of course, you can't completely avoid packaged foods, but we're at a fraction of where we used to be.

Your article is a poignant reminder.

Congratulations on 'cleaning up' your diet. It seems like so much work to do everything from scratch. But that's actually how my grandparents lived. They grew everything they ate. Farmers in upstate NY.

I remember, when I was growing up, 'spraying' was routine. Everything had insecticide on it. I was curious (after reading your comment) about the cancer risk for farmers, because of exposure. Despite a 'healthier' lifestyle (ex: physical activity, less smoking) there was an increase in certain cancers. This finding held consistent in two studies, from 1985, and from 2009

One of my cousins runs a food co-op today and sells only organic. When she went organic it was revolutionary. She was one of the first to take the risk of changing her farm practices.

I guess, it's not just growing your own food, but your exposure to chemicals across the board that matters.

Thanks for stopping by and prompting my reading. There are always more questions than answers (for me).

I must say, what I read felt quite disturbing...

Hello @ruth-girl🌸,
Yes disturbing. I was seething a bit as I researched this (yes, I do seethe 😇 from time to tome). Such lies and subterfuge used to get us to eat that stuff.
Reading labels and making food from scratch...the only way to avoid the additives.

🌟 Happy New Year to you and your little family 🌟

Dear @agmoore, I'll stop by and give you a hug before the end of this tremendous year. I hope that 2021 brings you all the good things and many joys. You have been a beautiful friendship at Hive.
Now I am going to my father's house to eat all kinds of addictive and indigestible foods. That includes ice cream with added gum, beer and hallacas.

Thank you, friend @adncabrera
For me, friendships on Hive are more than virtual. There is so little we can do to affect change in the world, but on Hive we can have a very tiny impact on individuals by behaving well. I do appreciate your friendship and your perspective on life. This enriches me very much.
Enjoy your New Years celebration at your father's house. The most important part of life: the people we care about.
A big hug back for you.
Happy New Year!

Tu investigación es excelente, llega a mí en un buen momento, por esta cuarentena inicie un negocio de helados, en la apertura todo era natural, pero luego pensé en educarme un poco, realice algunos cursos y llegaron a mi muchas palabras que hoy nombras este artículo como lecitina de soya, goma guar, goma xantana, carboximetilcelulosa, en mi formación son vendidos como estabilizantes, espesantes, emulsionantes, con el fin de dar mayor suavidad y volumen a los helados, que se verán reflejadas en mi ganancia, pues estos productos hacen que mi mezcla pueda rendir el doble o más, además puedo ahorrar al sustituir el emulsionante natural por estos sustitutos, según la información que nos dan las cantidades sugeridas en las recetas son seguras para el consumo humano. Pero ahora hare las dos presentaciones para darle al consumidor la oportunidad de elegir lo que llevará a su cuerpo, además leeré sobre cada uno de estos compuestos. Muchas gracias me encanto tu artículo.

Dear @mjmarquez4151,
Your comment makes me very happy. I write because I hope to make a difference, even a tiny difference. You can see the research I did is quite responsible. If you follow the links to the articles, they are all in peer-reviewed journals. I think people should understand that these additives (thickeners, emulsifiers, etc.) can have a negative effect on their bodies. It will cost you more to prepare the ice cream without these additives, but there may customers willing to pay more, because they want better food. It is wonderful that you give consumers the choice.

I wish you good luck in your business. If you look at the references at the bottom of my blog, these may help you to come to a decision about how to go forward. Perhaps you'll let me know in the future how this choice works out for you.

Happy New Year,

Muchas gracias por tu aporte, ando en modo lectora para mejorar mis helados y sean más saludables, feliz año nuevo para ti y los tuyos.

Happy New Year, and buena suerte!

Thanks for this A.G. We don’t know what we are eating half the time until our tummy tells us something isn’t right.

I didn’t know about the indigestible agent in cream cheese and it is expensive to buy something that may not be good for you. :)

I love cheese cake...only a tiny slice:). I have a block of cream cheese in the frig and was going to layer it with sour cream and salsa, then with grated cheese on top as a dip for tortillas. Maybe not such a good idea to use too much cream cheese.

🎉Warm wishes for a safe and healthy New Year!🍾

Hello my friend from the North :)
I had unused packages of cream cheese that I turned over to my daughter after I learned about the gums. She will eat this cheese, but I am going to encourage her to be more careful about her diet. In my family autoimmune diseases are very common, inordinately so. We can boast of some rare ones. So she should be especially careful.

I appreciate that you read my long, rather technical blog. I don't think there's any point in writing an informational blog unless it's backed up by proof.

Enjoy your cheesecake. All these years you've been eating cream cheese, one more extravaganza won't make a difference.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year celebration. Here it is very quiet. My husband and I are hunkering down, waiting for dreadful 2020 to finally end. A real nightmare especially in the US: the never-ending pandemic and the never-ending election.

Happy New Year! 🎉

(Thank you for the tip!)

Most welcome A.G. It’s a quiet New Years Eve here also. 🎉 💞

You may find you have an issue with fiber in general. I am very careful to eat a low/no fiber diet. We have been told to eat almost the opposite of what actually makes us healthy. Keep searching ... even better health is there the more plant-toxins you dump. Check out Dr. Shawn Baker. He is telling the truth.

Thanks for the advice! I'm really careful with my diet, not because I'm a 'princess' but because I have some autoimmune inflammatory issues. Long road I've come and am quite comfortable with where I am now.

I hope the New Year is good to you and to all of us. Thanks for stopping by.

Well keep it in mind ... tons of folks have 'healed' their autoimmune issues and gotten off meds

Thank you :)

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Thank you very much. I really appreciate your support. Happy New Year...may we prosper as a community and as individuals in 2021.

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Might as well start eating plastic. Same result.

Yup. Really infuriating, though, the way industry and government lie to us about safety and side effects.

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I almost don't eat "factory food". :-)
Except sometimes in school. :-(
I don't like sweets much:
But my father showed me a cafe where we can eat organic ice cream and I really loved it.:-)
I adore soup, vegetables and fish (from the sea). But made by my parents. hehe
I hate aquarium fish. :-(
My father explained all the post to me, and I'm happy to know that I don't like stuff from supermarkets. :-)

I don't know how I missed this friend :)

Your father is very wise. You are lucky to have a parent who explains so much and who cares so much.

Be well, young friend.

La verdad se ve muy sabroso, qyuisas alguna ves lo podre elaborar, gracias.

Thank you for stopping by!