Ingredient Investigator Extraordinaire

Benzoate Preservatives: BHT

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, we will discuss a nearly ubiquitous ingredient in packaged foods: BHT or butylated hydroxytoluene. Foods that typically contain this nasty little chemical are breakfast cereals, bread (typically non-whole grain, but even they are not exempt, so check the label carefully), pastries, and other packaged foods with fat, such as crackers.

Interestingly enough, some people 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 BHT?

BHT is a very common food preservative used for its antioxidant properties.  It is used to stop fats from going rancid in processed foods.  It essentially increases the shelf life of foods so that they can be stored for days, weeks, and months at a time and save revenue for your local grocer.  It is a chemical derivative of phenol, which is largely produced from petroleum! [1] Yum!  “Have some oil with your Twinkie!”

BHT is also used in the following applications:



-Jet fuel additive


-Electrical transformer oil

-Embalming fluid

-Gear oils


The reason for these applications is because BHT is an antioxidant and, thus, prevents the formation of free radicals that break down the integrity of cells and, ultimately, kill them.  This is a good thing, right?  Yes, but ironically, some research argues that this same chemical is a carcinogen [2] (cancer causing agent).  It has also been anecdotally linked to metabolic disorders.

In my opinion, anything that is found in rubber, jet fuel, 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.  Ouch. To think that eating a typical American diet is equal to abuse is hard to take, but from a physiological perspective, it is the personification thereof.  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 stay away from all 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.   Manfred Weber, Markus Weber, Michael Kleine-Boymann “Phenol” in Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2004, Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a19_299.pub2.

  2. “Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)”, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, 1986;40:161-206.

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