If you’ve been reading the product labels when shopping, you might have encountered parabens; if you use cosmetics, you almost certainly have. They're quite common in shampoo, conditioner, makeup, body lotion and creams, and so many other types of beauty products, but you might not be aware they're used as a food preservative as well.
What Are Parabens?
Parabens, primarily methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben, are artificially created compounds used in small amounts as a preservative in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and, yes, some foods and beverages. Chemically, parabens are esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid, and they're considered endocrine-disrupter chemicals (EDCs)
Parabens possess bactericidal and fungicidal properties, and they’re inexpensive to produce, which makes them popular as preservatives. This effectiveness and cheapness makes them attractive as food preservatives, and their use in American foods has grown almost thirty-fold since 1970.
Some parabens do occur naturally, such as those found in grapefruit seed extract and some wines, but as a rule, they're man-made.
What Are Paraben's Health Concerns?
There is some evidence that links parabens to breast cancer, and the early onset of puberty in girls, but those studies were small and the data has not been confirmed as yet. As more studies are being done, more potential health risks may be discovered with parabens.
Should I Avoid Parabens?
Yes! Check those labels! If you want to avoid consuming or using parabens, there are many paraben-free products available in stores and online.