What Is BHT And Why You Should Avoid It



Face cream, vegetable oil, cookies, and cereals. Well, these are some of the many things we use every day in our lives. In fact, I stand corrected, all these products have become essential commodities in our homes meaning we can’t do without them in one way or the other. But do we actually know what constitutes the ingredients in these products? In a recent survey by Consumer insight, only one in 10 consumer goes through the ingredient list of any typical product. Going by these statistics it’s safe to say a majority of us are not aware of that some of the products we consume or use may actually be doing the body more harm than good.

So what is BHT? Perhaps you have heard in one of those late night lifestyle shows or maybe read it in one of the health journals but do you really know what BHT can cause to your overall health? Well, the following article seeks to highlight you on what BHT entails, its uses, and some of its impacts to the body.

What is BHT?

Butyl hydroxytoluene abbreviated as BHT is a synthetic(artificially manufactured) fat soluble compound that is used in the food and cosmetic industry for preservation purposes. BHT is added to cosmetics and foodstuffs to slow down the oxidation rate of ingredients in this products that may ultimately result in the alteration of color and taste. While this may not sound bad after all, you will be surprised to know that the same compound is also used in pharmaceuticals, petroleum and its by-products, rubber, electrical transformers and even embalming fluids! Strange right?

As such, BHT has been a subject of many debates, studies with some proposing while others opposing the use of this compound in food and cosmetic products thereby leaving becoming a huge contention that has left scholars divided. One such study published by Business Week Magazine postulate that butylated hydroxytoluene(BHT) as well as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) are linked to unusual rate of DNA synthesis, liver enlargement, and make one susceptible to cancer. This is contrary to a number of studies published that suggest these same compounds may actually freeze cancer cells from developing and spreading due to their antioxidant properties. So what is the way forward? Should we ban these compounds from being added to our cereals and facial creams or should we embrace them?

Negative Impact of BHT

For starters, when you Google the Material Safety Data Sheet for BHT, you will be surprised at some of the precautions the manufacturers have outlined to ensure the product is handled well You wont like the idea that a combustible compound that should be left to enter the atmosphere and is harmful to aquatic life should be added to your food product leave alone cosmetics. To add salt to the injury, the manufacturer goes ahead to claim that these compounds may affect the normal functioning of the liver as well as cause confusion, nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness among many other complications begging the question if the product is really safe for consumption or usage.

BHT causes cancer

And if you thought maybe it was just another strategy by competitors to create mass hysteria to discourage the sell of the product think again. Not only has one study linked BHT as a cause of cancer but a myriad of studies undertaken by independent persons in different countries. What all these studies have in commonality is that BHT accumulation in the body increases toxicity which may lead to damage of the kidneys, lungs, liver among many other numerous negative effects. Let’s take a moment and look at the findings of some of the studies undertaken.

In 1984, Gann established that BHT had the ability of causing chemically-induced bladder cancer in rats. Afterwards, in 1986 another study commissioned by Olsen to a ascertain the chronic impact on BHT on rats established that there was significant increase in hepatocellular adenomas, sounds really unpleasant, and again in 1988 anther study by Thompson to look on the effects of BHT and BHA on humans postulated that both compounds were toxic and promoted the development of tumors in the body. What could you possibly expect from an environmental degrading and combustible compound?

Another study commissioned by the University if Hamburg to ascertain if BHT induced tumors found that the compound has specific toxic effects to the lungs and also induces liver tumors if used for a long term in humans. The research further found Vitamin E as a viable alternative and was not carcinogenic in any way. you will agree with me Vitamin E sounds even much better than Butyl hydroxytoluene

Yet another research conducted recently in 2006 in Argentina showed that BHT did not prevent cancer as some studies showed. In fact, the study also showed that the compound promoted cancer by increasing the chromosomal damage that was induced by radiation.

Is it worth preventing cancer at the cost of having it?

While much has been said about the carcinogenic effect of BHT, studies have also shown that BHT has anti-carcinogenic properties. These studies suggest that BHT may be safe to ingest at low levels but is it really worth it to prevent cancer at the cost of having it?

It all started in 1979 when the National Institute for Cancer Research Published a report suggesting that BHT was not carcinogenic. The study was later boosted by Takahashi in 1993 that established that BHT fed orally for a number of generations on rats virtually had no effect. Shockingly, another study in 1991 also suggested that humans can get positive benefits by taking BHT. But is cancer the only complication that can be bought by BHT? And why does the Food Drug Administration(FDA) classify BHT as generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) to be used up to concentrations of 0.02 %?

BHT and Autism Symptom

BHT and other synthetic preservatives are also linked with increasing the symptoms in broad spectrum autism. In the recent journal of American Autism Society, BHT and other related preservatives exacerbates the symptoms of children suffering with autism. The journal further claims that children exposed to BHT had a further restricted interest to a particular object of which autism is usually characterized by repetitive behavioral tendencies and restriction to an object.

BHT and Hormonal Complications

Not only doe BHT come with carcinogenic properties but is also linked with hormonal imbalance in the body. This has caused the European Union to enlist it as an endocrine disruptor due to its ability to lower testosterone and thyroxin hormones in rats as well as adversely affecting the quality of sperms and development of sex organs. One study established that female rats that were subjected to lower doses of BHT showed a relative decrease in their uterine weight which is a result of estrogen metabolism. Similarly, other studies have also shown decreased growth and development as well as mortality in rats which had not been weaned.

BHT and Liver Complications

The liver is the second most largest organ in the body so you can guess what any liver complication can have on your body. As mentioned earlier, BHT can cause the enlargement of the liver thereby affecting its ability to function optimally. This may result in life threatening complications such as liver failure, irreversible liver damage among many other complications which may be detrimental to the overall health of the body. Similarly, these may also affect the body’s ability to get rid of toxins and toxins accumulation in the body may be catastrophic in the long run.

BHT and Kidneys

Just like the liver, the kidneys are also important organs that constitute the excretory system. The kidneys are also needed by the body in order to get rid of toxins and wastes from our bodies and their damage may also affect the normal functioning of the body. BHT in large doses can significantly impair kidneys which may result in kidney failure. According to the American Society of Renal Science, ingesting small amounts of BHT ultimately leads to build up toxicity level in the body which may overwhelm the kidneys. As such, BHT can be said to have the same negative impact as alcohol if taken in large doses.

BHT and the Brain

BHT has also been linked to complications that may inhibit brain development. As mentioned earlier, BHT ingestion may be lethal as it may affect the brains ability to concentrate, process information as well as do tasks. For autistic children, BHT consumption and application has also been proven to further worsen the condition by increasing their symptoms. Similarly, BHT may also affect the the development of infants brain. This has led to countries such as the US, united kingdom, and Japan to ban the use of BHT in food and cosmetic products meant for infants. This only shows the intensity of the effects of BHT.

BHT and Overall Health

Well, BHT also affects the overall health of the users going by the precautions the manufacturer states as mentioned above. BHT is known to cause nausea dizziness, vomiting among many other negative side effects to the body. Adding to cancer and its effect to major body organs, it goes without saying that BHT should be avoided by all means.

BHT and Skin Allergies

Though most of the studies undertaken revolve around the consumption of the product, the application of the product has also been shown to be hazardous on the skin depending on the product usage. The Skin deep site link s BHT to rising incidence of skin cancer, allergies, developmental toxicity, endocrine imbalance leading to acne, cellular level changes. This is backed by the Final report on the safety assessment of BHT which established that NHT application on the skin in low concentration is safe but not in large amounts.

Though application of BHT on skin does not lead to systemic exposure as it is in the case with oral exposure, there are studies that have shown that have linked BHT to significant irritation, photosensitization, and sensitization of the skin. For this reason, Canada and the United Kingdom have banned the use of BHT in their cosmetics especially those meant for infant use Some of the cosmetics that contain BHT include Neutrogena body oil, Liquid Neutrogena Facial Cleanser, OLAY Facial Wipes, Loreal Intensity Pigments, and Beauty Bar Sensitive Skin.

BHT and Environment

Not only does BHT has adverse effects on the human body but also marine environment. The Convention of Marine Environment of Atlantic list BHT and BHA as a potential chemical for concern due to its toxicity to marine life and its potential to bioaccummulate. Similarly, the United Nations Environment Program has also concluded that BHT has extremely high potential for bioaccumulation of aquatic organism. Makes you wonder why the product is still used in human consumption and application.

Bottom line

While the usefulness of BHT can be contradictory, the above mentioned negative effects should serve as a red light. Though Vitamin E has been found as an equally good alternative to BHT as it is not associated with any negative side effects, it’s absurd that food and cosmetic companies are forcing us to use these chemicals that is controversial.

The usefulness of Vitamin E as a better alternative to BHT is evident in the German Study conducted in 1993 that showed a comparison in the toxicology of BHT and BHA in contrast to a similar but natural antioxidant i.e. Vitamin E. and because there is no available data to show the genotoxicity of BHT and BHA, all studies agree with the fact that these two compounds are carcinogenic or rather tumor promoters while Vitamin E isn’t carcinogenic in any way. on the other hand, though all three preservatives i.e. BHT, BHA, and Vitamin E are anti-carcinogenic, intake of BHA and BHT is restricted to lower doses meaning they have carcinogenic properties.

Similarly, by virtue that other countries such as United Kingdom and Japan have banned these products from being used in their food as well as cosmetics should serve as a wake up call to those still using BHT preserved products. Though the US recommends 0.02% concentrations on these products, it still doesn’t alleviate the fear and worry of the accumulated toxins in the body.

While it remains a contentious issue, the studies conducted are sufficient enough for you to avoid BHT as much as possible.

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