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5 Food additives scientifically linked to obesity

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Key ingredients that shouldn't be in your groceries

Why are we all getting bigger? And why is it so hard to lose weight? If these questions were easily answered, we'd all have tiny waists, tabloids would go out of business and "diet" would go back to meaning "what a person eats" — rather than describing a multi-billion dollar industry telling people what not to eat.

Part of the problem stems from not knowing exactly what things in our environment are causing us to gain weight. Sure, we can lay much blame at the foot of Twinkies, ice cream and double-decker pizzas, but scientists have long known that larger (ha!) forces are at work.

Chemicals, soil contamination, air quality and even things like sunlight exposure and time spent sitting, among other things, have been linked to weight gain. It's enough to drive anyone crazy. But a new study aims to shed some light on the subject by compiling a list of ingredients added to everyday food items that have been scientifically linked to obesity.

5 Food additives linked to obesity

You already know to be wary of high fructose corn syrup and trans fats, but here are five more to watch out for.

Sodium benzoate. A preservative found in things like salad dressing, soda, margarine and even fruit juices, this chemical suppresses leptin, your body's "satiety hormone" so you never quite feel full.

Organophosphates. You won't find this one on the label, since it's a common base for pesticides and is used in a lot of plastic food packaging, but the chemical has been shown to induce pre-diabetes in humans and considered "highly toxic" even at very low amounts of exposure.

Mono-oleoyl-glycerol. Used to give texture to ice cream, whipped toppings, margarine and shortening, this chemical also inhibits your ability to feel satiated, meaning that you will just keep eating long after you've consumed enough calories.

Palmitic acid/palm kernel oil/fractionated palm oil. Don't confuse these with their healthier counterpart, palm oil. Palm kernel oil and its derivatives are made by using a gasoline-like hydrocarbon to process the seed of the plant, making it one of the most "negative" oils studied. The irony is that in addition to being in solid fats like margarines, it's also commonly found in health foods like power bars and protein shakes.

Monosodium glutamate. People have been going back and forth on MSG, the chemical used to enhance savory flavors in foods, for decades. While recent studies show that it doesn't increase overall caloric intake, rat studies have shown that consistent intake damages your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which causes obesity.

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