Health & Fitness

Should You Avoid Artificial Flavoring in Food?: A Look at What the Research Says


Americans are becoming more and more concerned about what they eat. There is a big push to eat natural and organic foods. Many say that processed foods and artificial flavorings are dangerous to your health.

But are these people correct? Several people making these claims are self-proclaimed health experts, and most of them don’t have any background in nutrition science. Their knowledge of artificial flavorings might be based on word-of-mouth rather than any researched data.

So what does the actual research on the matter say? Should you avoid artificial flavoring? Let’s take a look at what the data suggests.

What Is Artificial Flavoring?

Artificial flavorings are synthetic ingredients used to enhance the flavor of the food. As their name suggests, these ingredients are not derived from nature. An example would include most vanilla extracts made from a lab-based chemical called vanillin.

The FDA puts artificial flavoring through strict tests before labeling them as safe. However, as time has gone on and more research has been done, some data suggests that artificial flavoring could cause health defects.

Potential Risks of Artificial Flavoring

Some studies have been done with mice suggesting that artificial flavorings can contribute to poor gut health or weight gain. However, humans and mice have different digestive systems, and it’s uncertain if humans could have the same reactions. More research is necessary on these matters.

It’s worth noting, however, that many artificial flavorings contain high fructose corn syrup, which is known to contribute to obesity.

More concerning¬†is a potential increased risk of cancer with some flavorings. Diets high in nitrites and nitrates are shown to increase colorectal cancer risk. Other research has suggested other potential cancers related to food additives, although it’s not clear what some of these additives are.

Because there seems to be so much uncertainty surrounding the impacts of some artificial flavors, it would be a safer bet to remove them from your diet.

Natural vs. Artificial Flavoring

You’re less likely to have health defects if you opt for more natural foods. Moreover, Andrew Weil, M.D., has said that while most artificial flavors aren’t harmful, they still don’t produce natural flavors’ complex and high-quality taste. Improved taste and less risk to your health are why you should stick to¬†natural flavors.

When shopping for foods, look at the ingredient list to ensure everything is pure. You want foods that use natural flavor systems to improve their taste. Avoid nitrates, avoid food colorings and dyes, and make sure everything is natural and organic.

You’ll get better tasting food, and you’ll be doing yourself a favor in preserving your health.

More on Nutrition and Health

So are artificial flavorings bad for you? Some may not be, some are, and some require more research. However, the lack of research means the potential effects of some of these flavors are unknown. Stay on the safe side and stick to natural flavoring.

Visit our Health & Fitness section for more tips.