Ingredient Investigator Extraordinaire

Benzoate Preservatives: BHA

Fuzzy Little Health Food or Colossal Carcinogen?

Hello, my friends!  I hope you are treating life well!  In this addition of the Ingredient Investigator Extraordinaire, you will learn more about a chemical that is likely in your diet if you are eating processed and packaged foods: Butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA.   Common foods that contain this nasty little chemical are breakfast cereals, bread (typically non whole grain, but even they are not exempt, so check the label carefully), and pastries. Additionally, other packaged foods such as crackers or foods that contain fat that must be stored on a shelf also contain this chemical.

Interestingly enough, some have hailed this “food stuff” as a “health food” because of its antioxidant properties.  On the other side of the fence, you have others screaming foul play with accusations of carcinogenic activity.  So who is right, and should you be eating this?  I will share what I have found on this controversial substance and let you be the judge.

What is BHA?

Butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA, is a very common food preservative used for its antioxidant properties. It is very similar to BHT (see my sister blog discussing BHT) as it is used to stop fats from going rancid in processed foods.  It essentially increases the shelf life of foods so that they can stay there for days, weeks, and months at a time and save revenue for your local grocer.

BHA is also used in the following applications:



-Animal feed (same reason for our food)

-Jet fuel additive


-Petroleum products

BHA is commonly used it these applications because it is an antioxidant. This means BHA prevents the formation of free radicals that are detrimental to human health by breaking down the integrity of cells and ultimately killing them.   Some studies support BHA as a “health compound,” or an anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer causing) in nature. This is a good thing, right?  Yes, but ironically, this same chemical is also accused of being a known carcinogen [1] (cancer causing agent. Obviously, this topic is highly debatable.

Recently, BHA has become more popular than BHT in the commercial food industry because it is viewed as “less risky.”  However, the U.S. National Institutes of Health has reported that “BHA is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. In particular, when administered in high doses as part of their diet, BHA causes papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas of the forestomach in rats and Syrian golden hamsters.”[1]

Common sense says that anything that is found in rubber, cosmetics, and petroleum should not be consumed by my body. Period.  Yes, the body can process chemicals and obviously does for millions of Americans each and every day, but at what cost?  Have you ever stopped and thought about the organs that are responsible for this detoxification, namely your liver?  Imagine for a moment driving 65 MPH in first gear for 200 miles.  What would happen to your car?  In the same sense, by consuming these crap chemicals day in and day out, you are essentially forcing your liver into first gear day in and day out–that’s the bad news.

The good news is that your body is magnificently resilient and has the ability to heal itself from years of abuse.  To think that eating a typical American diet is equal to abuse is hard to take, but from a physiological perspective, that is exactly what is happening. However, if you get back to eating clean, natural, and whole foods, you will not have to worry about this embalming fluid entering your veins!

I am convinced that eating natural and whole foods is a sure way to avoid the negative health effects of the harmful ingredients that I dissect here in the Ingredient Investigator Extraordinaire.  I hope this has been helpful, my friends, and, as always, remember LIFE IS GOOD!

God Bless,


  1.   ^ Jump up to:a b Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), CAS No. 25013-16-5, Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition, National Institutes of Health

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