Non-Naturally Occuring Chemicals with Fewer Side Effects on the Human Body than Food?

Are there any chemicals (medications, sweeteners, preservatives, propellants, pesticides, etc.) that are not naturally occurring and which we can genuine say are safer to ingest than, for example, your average plate of kale and lentils?

What do you mean by “chemical”?

Elements? The ones that don’t naturally occur are all highly radioactive, so no.

Compounds? Yes and no: there are plenty of them that are completely harmless, but there are also plenty of naturally occurring compounds that are completely harmless so it’s a draw.

(Of course everything is lethal when the dose is high enough.)

But I think your real question is: are there non-natural foodstuffs that are better for you than their natural counterparts?

Of course there are. Artificial sweeteners don’t make you fat and thus give you diabetes and so on, like sugar does. But natural/artificial is a meaningless divide, it doesn’t matter how a compound gets made, its effects remain the same.

Then again, food with vitamins tends to be good for us while some vitamin supplements (like vitamin E) actually increase mortality.

A molecule which can be synthesized, packaged, and sold.

I don’t mean to imply otherwise. I’m just looking for the names of a few examples.

I’m trying to avoid those since there are too many (perhaps poorly performed) studies which try to paint it otherwise, with sweeteners. Though if there is one that no one has been able to paint with that brush, I’d be interested.

I’m not sure how you can define “safe” such that anything could be safer than food. The effects of eating food are guaranteed to be 100% safer than the effects of not eating food.

There are even more and better studies that say they’re fine.

In general, if something is bad (asbestos, trans fats) then that will be well known and not controversial a decade or two after its introduction.

If you need to expose rats who are bred to get cancer easily to huge doses to see an effect, then the effect is too small to worry about anyway.

I’m always surprised to see people worry about “chemicals” and then have no worries eating stuff that comes out of nature with who knows what in the soil, contaminants, bacteria, viruses… When I was a kid I would never eat anything that came from a plant outdoors, only stuff that came from a trustworthy factory or supermarket. :slight_smile:

Foods have side effects. One side effect is nourishment, but other side effects might be vitamin toxicity, arsenic, cancer, ulcers, etc. depending on diet and quantity.

Obviously nourishment is a requirement. I’m not suggesting chemicals that are alternatives to food. We should assume that our eater is still eating food. But if he has eaten a full, balanced diet already, and anything more is unnecessary, then what would be some non-natural substances that he could ingest which would have fewer potential side effects than kale and lentils?

I’m not seeing very many names… I don’t disagree with anything that you have said, but I intended the thread as a request for specific items, not for a debate about general health or because I doubted that there are answers to my request.

Teflon. It just passes through the system.

Before getting bent out of shape on sweeteners, note that the italicized is untrue. Being fat does not give you diabetes. Being skinny does not prevent diabetes.

Stainless steel and titanium too, I would think.

Gold is not very chemically reactive. I think it would just pass right through, wouldn’t it?

I’m afraid that the examples of teflon, steel, titanium, and gold meet the OP’s personal definition of ‘chemical’, “A molecule which can be synthesized, packaged, and sold.” so they don’t fit on the list.

Basically, this definition of ‘chemical’ appears to make this question all about how difficult things are to make in the lab, which is a really odd criterion for the judgement of quality of food. The two things have nearly nothing to do with one another. Also, as the years go by and we figure out better ways to do chemical synthesis, the set of ‘chemicals’ by this definition will change to give us a moving target.

PS - oh, and atomized gold or titanium rather than molecular would be hideously reactive and fail the safe test.


I’m pretty sure that Chemicals :eek: like aspartame and monosodium glutamate are a lot safer for the estimated 400 million people with G6PD deficiency to consume, compared to fava beans.*

Hemolytic anemia due to fava bean intolerance can be nasty.

Piracetam does not occur in nature and is less toxic than table salt. Other than that, I gots nuthin’, as it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to think of any manmade chemical which is less toxic than food. A person could ingest a pound of protein, carbohydrate, glycerol tripalmitate, or ethyl alcohol and live to tell about it, although with the exception of carbohydrate, it wouldn’t be a very good idea. I can’t think of any chemical compound that is not naturally occurring which could be consumed in such a quantity and not have an extremely deleterious and/or lethal effect, with exception of maybe sucralose. If such a compound does exist, it would almost certainly have to be something which passes through the GI tract intact.

Substances Generally Regarded as Safe by the FDA

GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Database

You can check if any of them are non-naturally occurring.