When you pick up a box of cereal in the supermarket, do you know exactly what you are getting?
How about cookies… vegetable oil… and even your face cream?
We all know the importance of reading the ingredients list, but what are we supposed to do with a collection of letters and numbers that often confront us?
The Good Human hopes to clear up this confusion, and this time we’re asking… What is BHT?
What Is BHT?
BHT or butyl hydroxytoluene is a fat soluble synthetic compound which is commonly used to preserve foods and cosmetics to slow down the autoxidation rate of ingredients in a product that can cause changes in the taste or colour. As such, it is primarily used to prevent fats in foods from becoming rancid – but it is also used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, jet fuels, rubber, petroleum products, electrical transformer oil, and embalming fluid.
Sure sounds strange that BHT is something that is found in our food, right?
It has been the subject of many studies, which have been contradictory in their findings. The result is that we are left with confusion over whether consuming and applying products containing BHT is safe. This confusion is nothing new, as we can see from the following excerpt from Business Week magazine back in 1995.
Several additives are suspected carcinogens. Take butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). Food companies use these similar chemical substances to prevent spoilage in foods with oil or shortening and to preserve many breakfast cereals (from Total to Quaker Instant Oatmeal), enriched rice products, and dried soups. Repeated studies have shown that BHA and BHT increase the risk of cancer as well as accumulate in body tissue, cause liver enlargement, and retard the rate of DNA synthesis and thus, cell development. However, one study, released in 1994, suggests these same additives may actually retard cancer development because of their antioxidant properties.
There is actually more than one study suggesting anti-carcinogenic effects of BHT. This article aims to look at the conflicting conclusions to help individuals to make informed choices regarding purchasing these products.