BHT and Me: The Parting of Ways

Recently, I made my husband give up his beloved Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Figuring all of the ingredients were pronounceable (I can read “BHT”), these were a staple in the house for some time.  Then, I looked up BHT.


You seem so jovial and innocent, little mini-wheat.

BHT, or Butylated hydroxytoluene (OK, I cannot pronounce this, maniacal food labelers), is (according to The Good Human) an antioxidant which reacts with oxygen free radicals to slow down the autoxidation rate of ingredients in a product that can cause changes in the taste or color. As such, it is primarily used to prevent fats in foods from becoming rancid – but it is also used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, jet fuels, rubber, petroleum products, electrical transformer oil, and embalming fluid.

Read that one more time.  Jet fuels.  Embalming fluid.

Here is a brief blurb from an abstract on BHT from the National Institute of Health (emphasis mine):

At acute doses of 0.5 to 1.0 g/kg, some renal and hepatic damage was seen in male rats. Short-term repeated exposure to comparable doses produced hepatic toxic effects in male and female rats. Subchronic feeding and intraperitoneal studies in rats with BHT at lower doses produced increased liver weight, and decreased activity of several hepatic enzymes. In addition to liver and kidney effects, BHT applied to the skin was associated with toxic effects in lung tissue. BHT was not a reproductive or developmental toxin in animals. BHT has been found to enhance and to inhibit the humoral immune response in animals. BHT itself was not generally considered genotoxic, although it did modify the genotoxicity of other agents. BHT has been associated with hepatocellular and pulmonary adenomas in animals, but was not considered carcinogenic and actually was associated with a decreased incidence of neoplasms. BHT has been shown to have tumor promotion effects, to be anticarcinogenic, and to have no effect on other carcinogenic agents, depending on the target organ, exposure parameters, the carcinogen, and the animal tested.

Interestingly, BHT appears to promote tumor growth and also be somewhat anticarcinogenic.  Put that in your mini-wheats and eat it.

Further, I did look up “hepatic” to be sure I understood.  As suspected, it means anything to do with the liver.

I’m on a mission to get back to basics.  Fruits, veggies, organic meats. It’s no easy task (or inexpensive, for that matter); and I slip up often.  (I was famished today and ate a Luna Protein bar.  Not the most natural stuff in there.)  But we can’t trust that just because it is called food that it will nourish us; we can’t even really trust that it might not give us cancer or renal failure.

I’m not sure that J has forgiven me yet for ousting the cereal.  His kidneys will thank me later.

Have you all had to let go of beloved foods based on potentially harmful ingredients?  I just realized today my Extra gum has artificial dyes and BHT.  Farewell, good buddy.





7 thoughts on “BHT and Me: The Parting of Ways

  1. Good for you for knowing what’s in your food! I too don’t buy cereals with BHT in them. My husband loves mini-wheats as well. In fact, it’s his favorite cereal. I buy him the Trader Joe’s version now. Hopefully there’s a TJ’s near you so your kiddos can still get their fix? If not, there might be another natural brand that makes something similar. Cascadian Farms cereals are now my favorite because they’re usually organic and not full of garbage.

  2. this post is AWESOME! i can honestly say, i knew BHT was bad – but i didn’t know about the jet fuel! thanks sooo much for posting!!

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  4. We used to live on Mini Wheats (and the off-brand, Mini Spooners). But, alas, the gelatin had to go when we went vegan – not sure why it’s even in Mini Wheats, but it is. The thought of gelatin used to make me cringe even before I cut out animal products. I’ve purposefully played ignorant to some of the abbreviated and longer name ingredients in my food. You’re definitely way ahead of me in clean, natural eating!

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