When we are looking to lose weight, we often go for the “low fat” food choices, or we count calories. But there is something that is a leading culprit in weight gain – additives and preservatives.  

“People may look at food labels and think they are making healthy food choices,” said Dr. Emily Gallagher is an assistant professor of endocrinology at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, “But without our knowledge, very small amounts of certain additives in food may be causing detrimental metabolic effects.” (Norton, 2019, para. 13-4). 

Western diets that are high in processed foods, sugars, and fats are leading causes of obesity, because many of those foods have these preservatives which are added to the foods to help them last longer. (Hewings-Martin, 2019, para. 2-3). Common foods are some breads and baked goods, dairy products, including milk, cheese, and puddings, processed meats that have been canned and curated, diet foods and beverages such as beer, sports drinks, prepared potato salads, nut butters, and vinegar. (Citroner, 2019, para. 5-6). 

While the science is still new on this topic, one study shows that preservatives interfere with our hormones, disrupting the process that tells us when we’re full. They distort the chemical structure of those hormones, thereby disabling the process by which hormones are transported out of cells, making them ineffective. Without that signal telling us we’re full, we’re more likely to keep eating and gain weight. (Lewin, 2017, para. 5-6). This is why we get addicted to refined carbs and sugars quickly.  

But even notwithstanding the addictive pattern of these processed foods, emulsifiers (additives) that are used to bind the oily and watery components of these foods can also alter the gut microbiome, reducing the barrier layer of mucus between immune cells and bacteria. (Rood, 2015, para. 1). This leads to inflammation and can make us appear bloated and heavier, especially in the stomach area.  

While it’s great to have foods that last longer, it’s truly those perishable produce foods that we want to reach for when we are looking to lose weight. And while the white breads and pastas are cheap and delicious, it is the whole grains that we want to start incorporating into our daily routines.  

The best way to start is to look at the label. If you can’t pronounce it, or don’t know what it is, chances are it’s a preservative that was used. Pull out your phone and do a search on that unidentifiable content. Some naturally occurring substance, such as acids might be one of those confusing ingredients, but if it is in fact an additive or preservative, put that item down, and look for something comparable that is natural. Just about every food that has chemicals in it has a natural counterpart.  

It might take a bit of patience and willingness, and there might even be frustration when these foods might not always immediately please the senses as much as their processed foods, but this truly is the start of holistic health. The effects of eating healthy, whole, and natural foods, will be worth the effort and commitment.


Citroner, G. (2019, April 28). Common food additive could lead to obesity, diabetes. Healthline. 

Hewings-Martin, Y. (2019, April 25). This common food additive may fuel weight gain, diabetes. Medical News Today.

Lewin, E. (2017, August 19). How preservatives can make us gain weight. The Sydney Morning Herald. 

Norton, A. (2019, April 24). Could common food preservatives make people fat? Nourish by WebMD. 

Rood, J. Food (2015, February 27). Additives linked to inflammation. The Scientist. 

About the author

Carly Blackwell

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Carly Blackwell

About Me

I began my wellness journey 15 years ago when I took my first kundalini yoga class. I went on to attain my level 1 teaching certificate, and after that I began a deep search within the Christian mysteries to go further into spiritual healing.

Around this same time I began to get help for a drug and alcohol dependency that I had developed since I was in high school. This catapulted my spirituality and wellness into new heights, where I met so many amazing people who contributed to the wholehearted individual that I am today.

Blackwell Health is the demonstration of the hard work I have put into my own wellness over the years. Whether I have the privilege to coach you, or to simply provide a resource through this platform for your own health and wellness, I hope to remind you that while we might not feel that we have full control in our lives, we can always take steps toward our wellbeing.