I get it. You try your best to eat healthy. But sometimes you cave. Especially this time of year around the holidays when baked goods and treats are all over the place. Their sugary goodness can be hard to resist.
Home baked goods aren't so bad. We can control what goes into baked goods that we're making ourselves. They're not as likely to contain preservatives or other funky ingredients. The ones I worry about are the ones that come pre-packaged from big box stores.
Propionate is an ingredient commonly found in pre-packaged baked goods. It's used as a preservative to keep pre-packaged baked goods fresh for a longer period of time. Its main purpose is to prevent mold and bacterial growth that would cause these items to go bad faster. Previous safety studies have shown that propionate is safe to consume and is considered non-toxic.
A group of researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently found that, while propionate may be non-toxic and safe to eat in common amounts used in food manufacturing, it can still be detrimental to our health. They found that propionate appears to increase the levels of several hormones that are associated with the risk of obesity and diabetes. The study concluded that propionate can trigger a cascade of metabolic events that can lead to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. Weight gain can also occur due to consumption of this popular food additive. So consider this the next time you reach for a baked good. You don't need these metabolic disruptors in your life.
Researchers are looking into potential alternatives that can be used in place of propionate to preserve baked goods for a longer period of time. They're worried that the obesity and diabetes epidemic will continue to get worse if food additives such as propionate aren't removed from the food supply. This ingredient is relatively new, only having been added to food manufacturing within the last 50 years. Some researchers are also worried that we don't yet understand the potential long-term metabolic effects. They are recommending that people avoid store bought baked goods that contain propionate until further testing can be done. Unfortunately, food manufacturers will continue to use this ingredient, stores will continue to sell items that contain it, and people will still continue to consume it for now.