1. Guanylic Acid
Where is it found? Foods such as chips, sauces and ready meals as a flavour enhancer.
How does it cause weight gain? Guanylic acid unleashes its full effect in heavily salted foods. Salt can trigger a reaction in the body that has been shown to be similar to drug addiction, making us crave more salty snacks.
Where is it found? Diet soft drinks and chewing gum as a synthetic sweetener.
How does it cause weight gain? It’s 200 times sweeter than sugar with roughly the same number of calories, but is used in much smaller quantities than natural sugar, meaning it has practically no calories. It does, however, stimulate appetite. Since aspartame doesn’t offer the body anything to curb the feelings of hunger, the brain thinks the body lacks nutrients, and orders us to eat more.
Where is it found? Sauces, sausages, chips and MSG as a common food additive.
How does it cause weight gain? A combination of salty and sweet, glutamate is considered the all-purpose choice among flavour enhancers. Studies show that glutamate, especially as used in MSG, can help lower the concentration of leptin, the ‘slimming hormone’, meaning it’s harder to feel satisfied while eating.
Where is it found? In modern medicine.
How does it cause weight gain? They’re an essential tool in modern medicine, but they do play a role in damaging gut flora, which can have an impact on our overall health. It all comes down to bacterial balance – if too many of the ‘good’ bacteria are killed off by antibiotics, they can be replaced by their harmful counterparts. This can have an impact on hormone regulation, which affects our appetite and satiation levels.
Where is it found? A natural sugar found in fruit.
How does it cause weight gain? We’re getting too much of it by consuming ‘diet’ products. The brain has a ‘control centre’ which determines what happens to the sugar we eat. Glucose, for example, is used to generate energy or is converted into fatty acids. Fructose, on the other hand, can outsmart the system. It quickly converts to fat, driving the concentration of uric acid skywards. This can trigger insulin resistance, a key culprit in developing type 2 diabetes.
Where is it found? Diet drinks, desserts, jams, and jellies as an artificial sweetener.
How does it cause weight gain? Although it’s banned in Singapore, this substance can still be found in countries including Australia, Canada and Mexico. The sweet taste of cyclamate can trigger an overproduction of insulin, prompting our body to collect calories – and store them as fat. An ongoing consumption can lead to us developing an aversion to products which are less sweet.
Where is it found? Softeners for plastic packaging, foils, bags and lids.
How does it cause weight gain? These nasties can rub off from flexible plastic and enter the body directly. At a chemical level, many plastic compounds are similar to the body’s own hormones which trigger feelings of hunger. These chemicals can throw hormone balance out of whack, and cause satiation hormones to ‘switch off’, promoting hunger.
Where is it found? The coating of certain nonstick pots and pans.
How does it cause weight gain? The dangers of Teflon hit the news a while back, but utensils containing the substance are still widely used throughout the world. A study conducted by the University of Exeter analysed blood samples of around 4,000 people and measured their polytetrafluoroethylene concentrations.
The result? Participants with the highest concentrations of this chemical were twice as likely to suffer from thyroid problems. Depending on whether the thyroid is over or underactive, this can lead to fatigue, a slower metabolism, depression or a rapid heartbeat.
9. Bisphenol A (more commonly known as BPA)
Where is it found? The coating of plastic containers, drink cans and tins.
How does it cause weight gain? The substance suppresses adiponectin – a hormone which increases insulin sensitivity and reduces tissue inflammation. Supressing this hormone can lead to insulin resistance and increased susceptibility to metabolic syndrome, which has been associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
How can you "spring clean" your body cells?
Despite living in a world that’s increasingly filling with synthetic substances, our body is an expert at detoxing itself. Alongside organs like the liver, kidneys and spleen, which work to filter toxins, our cells have their own sophisticated cleaning system.
Japanese cellular biologist, Dr Yoshinori Ohsumi, has studied how damaged molecules and deposits in the cells are quickly killed off end recycled by invisible ‘cleansing troops’. In the science world, it’s a phenomenon called ‘autophagy’, from the Greek ‘auto’ (self) and ‘phagein’ (eating) meaning ‘self-eating’.
While the experts aren’t saying we should all rush out for a juice cleanse, Dr Ohsumi says there’s one thing that seems to aid the body’s detoxing system more than anything else – intermittent fasting.
Leaving at least a five-hour gap between meals boosts glucagon, a substance that helps to lower insulin levels. When the body detects a rise in glucagon, it’s a signal to cells that it’s an ideal time to start cleansing. It also activates growth hormone, so the cells can get to work rejuvenating and clearing out their ‘junk’ at the same time.
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