What is DATEM and is it bad for you? There are so many preservatives in processed and pre-prepared foods today that it can be overwhelming to seriously consider the problem. Trying your best to learn about these chemicals and their effects as well as how you can most effectively avoid them is well worth the effort, however.
What is DATEM?
DATEM is a chemical lurking in your store bought bread.
We tend to think of “junk food” like chips and candy or fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King meals as being the main types of fare we should avoid in order to maintain optimal health. It’s easy to overlook foods that we are generally considered basic and “healthy”, such as plain loaf bread. Unfortunately, however, many brands of store bought bread do contain worrying ingredients. One of them is DATEM.
DATEM is an acronym for the chemical compound Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides. DATEM is used as a sort of “dough conditioner” or emulsifier. It makes the dough used for the bread seem thicker and uniform, enhancing its appeal on the shelf.
Is DATEM Bad For You?
While the FDA has officially approved use of the chemical by food manufacturers, many people (including some experts) worry about its potential health effects. A study was conducted in 2002 that indicated that intake of DATEM by rats could result in adrenal overgrowth as well as fibrosis of the heart muscle.
The fact about DATEM that many people find most worrying is that no one really has clear information on how the substance is made or even exactly what is in it. Making this even more of a concern is the reality that in some breads, DATEM can comprise as much as 0.5% of the content of the bread.
Luckily, some bread manufacturers are voluntarily avoiding the use of DATEM in their products. For example, Whole Foods refrains from using DATEM in its bread products. If you are concerned about the use and potential effects of DATEM, it’s worth taking the time to do your research and find a brand of bread that does not use the chemical.
Why Do Bread Manufacturers Use DATEM
Bread manufacturers use DATEM in order to give their products a smoother consistency that many consumers tend to look for. DATEM also makes dough stronger and more resilient, as the substance helps to stabilize the dough’s ingredients. It also improves the structure and firmness of the finished product.
Another reason why DATEM use is widespread is the fact that it tends to help bread last longer on the shelf and in people’s kitchens without going stale. This is the case because the DATEM is effective in changing the retrogradation of amylose. Amylose is one of the components of starch. This means that dough with DATEM stays softer for a longer period of time. This helps to minimize product waste and improve company profits.
Not only is DATEM capable of presenting very real health concerns, it is absolutely devoid of any nutritional value. Allowing yourself to eat products containing DATEM is only capable of having negative effects on your health.
Other Foods in Which DATEM Is Often Found
You might be surprised to learn that DATEM is found in more than just bread. This additive is also used in items such as dessert products, muffins, cakes, and burger buns.
DATEM is even found in sweet treats such as Pop Tarts, as well as certain cappuccino mixes. It is very common to find DATEM in fast food. Examples of fast food chains that use the substance in their foods include Shake Shack, Chick-fil-A, Burger King, and McDonald’s. When eating at McDonald’s, you should be aware that DATEM is often found in their breakfast English muffins as well as its burger buns, and even its coffee cream.
Possible Health Effects of DATEM
As mentioned earlier, even though the FDA has stated that DATEM is safe for human consumption, there have been studies showing negative effects of the chemical on rats in lab experiments.
One of the medical conditions that the researchers found was linked to DATEM in rats is myocardial fibrosis. This is also referred to as cardiac fibrosis. This health problem involves a dramatic increase in the number of cardiac fibroblasts that is linked to problematic thickening of the valves of the heart.
Another possibly linked health problem in rats is endometrial hyperplasia. Endometrial hyperplasia occurs when there is thickening of the lining of the uterus. This tends to increase the risk of the development of cancer of the uterus.
Yet another problem is called sinus histiocytosis. This is also referred to as Rosai-Dorfman disease. This is a disorder involving overproduction of non Langerhans sinus histiocyte, a type of white blood cell. When there are too many of these cells, they tend to accumulate and cause problems in the lymph nodes. They can also accumulate and lead to issues in other parts of the body.
Other Additives to Avoid
Now that you know about the potential dangers of DATEM and why it should be avoided, you’re probably wondering what other troublesome chemicals may be lurking in your favorite store bought breads and other processed food products.
One is Potassium Bromate (often referred to simply as Bromide). Luckily, this chemical has been banned in several countries, such as Canada, Europe, China, and Brazil. Alarmingly, it is not banned in the U.S. (although the state of California requires manufacturers to provide warning labels for products containing the chemical).
Potassium Bromate acts as an endocrine disrupter in the human body. This means that it interferes with the thyroid’s ability to function. It has been shown that eating foods with this chemical on a consistent basis can lead to imbalance of the thyroid hormones. Researchers also believe that potassium bromate might increase the risk of cancer (especially with respect to the thyroid and kidneys). It may also cause problems with the digestive system as well as damage to DNA.
Azodicarbonamide is another problematic substance to watch out for in bread products. This chemical functions as a dough conditioner, like DATEM. It is used for bleaching flour, and is also creates a dough that is more elastic in texture. It has been shown that this chemical can lead to skin problems and allergies, and put people at greater risk of asthma.
This chemical has been banned in many European countries, as well as Australia. It is still used in the U.S., unfortunately. The popular fast food chain Subway used to utilize this chemical in its doughs, but they ceased doing so in 2014. One of the most alarming facts about the chemical is that it is heavily used in the plastics industry, in products such as yoga mats and flip flops.
Transition to a Healthier Diet
With unhealthy chemicals in so many foods today, improving the quality of your diet may seem like a truly daunting task. The truth, however, is that educating yourself, doing research, and making good choices every day will add up to healthier eating habits and better health over time.
Try to avoid eating store bought bread products whenever possible, or at least read the ingredients lists of any product you are thinking of buying to ensure that the chemicals we have discussed here are not present. Also be aware of what we said earlier about DATEM and other chemicals being present in other foods products, such as fast food and even cappuccino mixes and coffee whiteners.
It can also be extremely helpful to look for online lists of the best and worst breads and products in other related categories. Good luck making healthier decisions in your everyday eating. This will empower you to live a healthier life.
“Chemical Cuisine”, https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/chemical-cuisine
“Is Bread Making You Sick?” https://www.berlinnaturalbakery.com/blogs/bnb/81377732-is-bread-making-you-sick-dough-conditioners-additives
Diacetyl Tartaric And Fatty Acid esters Of Glkycerol, http://www.inchem.org/documents/jecfa/jecmono/v48je02.htm