Most of you are probably wondering, "What the heck is propylene glycol?" Propylene glycol may sound fancy and scientific, but it's really just a clear, odorless liquid made from petroleum. It's used as a stabilizer (to keep things held together, and keep them from evaporating), and to keep foods moist. It's used in many of the foods that we eat, and the FDA deems it safe for human consumption. Sounds harmless enough, right? But I stumbled upon a little something that you may not know about propylene glycol.
I promise this is the only other scientific word I will use: ketosis. Ketosis is simply a fancy medical term for when your body burns fat. So if you're overweight and you start to lose fat, it's called ketosis. I'm sure most of us can agree that ketosis is a good thing -- especially here in America, where we have the most overweight population on the planet.
So what do ketosis and propylene glycol have to do with being fat? Good question! There is an industry where fat is money. It's the cattle industry. Simply put, the cattle ranchers don't want cows to get skinny. When an overweight American goes into ketosis, we congratulate them and tell them how good they're looking. But when a cow starts to lose fat, the veterinarian is called immediately. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, "Ketosis is a common disease of adult cattle." And according to this manual, one of the treatments for this condition is propylene glycol. The cow is injected twice per day with propylene glycol until it gets fat again. This stops the cow from losing fat and keeps them nice and plump. The cow can then be sold and butchered so a beautiful, fatty rib eye steak can be enjoyed.
I am definitely not against a big fatty steak with proper marbling (the fatty beads throughout the steak). But I do wonder if propylene glycol is having the same effect on humans, and making it harder for a person to go into ketosis and lose fat. North Americans probably eat more propylene glycol than any other people on the planet, and we happen to be very fat. Coincidence? I am not saying that propylene glycol makes people fat (I can't, the FDA wouldn't let me say that). But it certainly poses an interesting question.
By the way, here's another little tidbit: the Merck Veterinary Manual also states, "Overdosing propylene glycol leads to CNS depression [central nervous system failure]." But again, they're talking about cows here, and it's very unlikely that a human being would eat that much propylene glycol in one sitting. However, I wasn't able to find out how much propylene glycol it would take to kill a cow or give it brain damage nor out if propylene glycol taken over time can have a damaging effect.
Here are some common foods that contain propylene glycol: certain mustards, food coloring, artificial flavors, certain chips, certain soy sauce brands, fried onions, certain strawberry and chocolate syrups, certain icing, canned coconut milk, certain salad dressings, certain ice cream brands, maple flavored bacon, certain juices, certain sodas, certain cake mixes, certain chicken bullion brands, fast food burgers and dipping sauces, certain yogurts -- and the list keeps going. After only 10 minutes of research I was able to find over 1,200 food items that contain propylene glycol. And not all of them listed it as an ingredient. For example, a food's ingredient list may include "artificial butter flavor". The butter flavor is made with propylene glycol, but since it came into the factory pre-made and was added as an ingredient in the process of another food, that manufacturer is not obligated to list sub-ingredients.
So we come again to the big question: is propylene glycol making you fat? I can't answer that. All I can do is present you with very interesting information and let you think for yourself.