The FDA have approved BHT for use in food, so it comes down to us to check ingredients.
There have been many studies which demonstrate that BHT accumulates over time in the body, having a toxic impact on the lungs, liver and kidneys amongst other negative effects. We will look chronologically at their findings.
A study by Gann in 1984 showed that BHT was capable of promoting chemically-induced forestomach and bladder cancer in male rats.
This was followed in 1986, with a chronic study on BHT in rats by Olsen. Dose-related increases in the numbers of hepatocellular adenomas and carcinomas were statistically significant. As with Gann’s study, the doses given to the rats were higher per pound of body weight than we would consume.
A 1988 Swedish study by Thompson looked at both BHT and BHA. They found that both were toxic and tumour promoting. Both antioxidants were observed to be cytotoxic in a concentration-dependent manner at concentrations ranging from 100 to 750 microM. At equimolar concentrations BHT was more cytotoxic than BHA.
Safer et al conducted a further study on rats in 1999 and came up with the same results. The food additive, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), encourages the development of tumors from previously initiated cells.
In 2001, Bauer et al found that lung tumor formation was promoted by BHT administration following an initiating agent in BALB/cByJ mice, but not in CXB4 mice. So in those mice that had a sensitivity to BHT, it caused chronic inflammation and promoted lung tumours.
A study published in 2006 in Argentina, used hamsters to prove that BHT did not prevent cancer but rather did the opposite. Results obtained showed that BHT did not decrease the chromosomal damage induced by radiation in any consistent fashion. On the contrary, in cells post-treated with 5.0 µg/ml of BHT the yield of chromosomal aberrations increased in several experimental points.
It is also pretty clear in the following excerpt from a study by the University of Hamburg that BHT is tumour promoting.
“Specific toxic effects to the lung have been observed with BHT…. BHT induces liver tumours in long-term experiments. Because there is no indication of genotoxicity of BHT, all published findings agree with the fact that BHA and BHT are tumour promoters. In contrast to BHA and BHT, vitamin E is not carcinogenic. On the other hand, all three antioxidants have also anticarcinogenic properties. The intake of the necessary high doses as for these effects are, however, contraindicated with BHA and BHT because of their carcinogenic effects.”
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