Are Hard to Pronounce Ingredients Still Safe?

Published on January 09, 2015 by Justine Florence

Recently, health-conscious gurus with good intentions have suggested that any compound that cannot be easily pronounced or recognized is a harmful substance and should be avoided. While there is some merit to this, it is not always the case.
Scientific names of compounds can be scary. Below are some examples of natural compounds with scary names:

Our body makes lipoic acid; its scientific name is “1,2-Dithiolane-3-pentanoic acid”. Pretty scary, huh?
Or how about “inositol hexanicotinate”? That’s the common name for non-flushing niacin, or vitamin B3; its proper name is “hexanicotinyl cis-1,2,3,5-trans-4,6-cyclohexane”! Yikes!
Lactose: the proper name is 4-O-beta-D-Galactopyranosyl-D-glucose.
There are far more scary looking names than that, and they are all considered natural substances.

Another one? Latin names. Latin names for plants can often be hard to pronounce.
For example, the Latin name for flax lignans is “Linum usitatissimum L.”: try that one!
Or Astaxanthin (which people have a hard enough time pronouncing): Haematococcus pluvialis.

Now, take for instance some of the common chemicals that most health conscious consumers try to avoid:
Sodium sulfite: “sulfurous acid, disodium salt”. Pretty easy.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG): “L-Glutamic acid monosodium salt.” Looks like it contains a protein and a salt.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): “sodium dodecyl sulfate,” or “sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt.” The first version is easier. At least there are no numbers, and it’s all English!
Acesulfame potassium (aspartame): 1,2,3-Oxathiazin-4(3H)-one, 6-methyl-, 2,2-dioxide, potassium salt….. Okay, this one is scary.

Of course, I have picked certain examples to make my point. But the point is that plants, natural compounds whether made in the body or synthesized in a lab, as well as harmful chemicals can all have hard-to-pronounce names or easy names. When reading labels, if you really want to know what an ingredient is, the best thing to do is search it out on the internet. The last thing you want to do is think you can’t eat anything just because you can’t pronounce an ingredient… you may be cheating yourself out of a good thing!

Do you think “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it” is good advice? Do you have any other healthy living rules you live by? Leave a comment below or tweet us @AOR_Health!

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