6 Nasty Chemicals that Could Cause Weight Gain

This article by Mike Roussell gives one pause to consider the bigger picture when it comes to what we put into our mouths. After all, that’s where the dynamic – eating, food, nutrition, health – begins.

Looking at what’s in our food can quickly become an exercise in getting depressed or getting invigorated. Awareness makes the difference. These six chemicals are a good starting place if you’re not sure about what’s in your food.

by Mike Roussell, SHAPE Diet Doctor, phD

Canned Vegetables lined with Bisphenol-A (BPA)These six chemicals may be causing weight gain. With obesity rates continuing to climb year after year without epic changes in the amount of calories we are eating, many wonder what else could be a contributing to this growing epidemic. Sedentary lifestyle? Definitely. Environmental toxins? Possibly.

Unfortunately the world we live in is chock-full of chemicals and compounds that can negatively impact our hormones. These six in particular could be helping to pad your waistline and while you may not be able to completely avoid them, there are easy ways to limit your contact.

1. Atrazine: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. It’s commonly used on corn, sugarcane, sorghum, and in some areas on grass lawns. Atrazine disrupts normal cellular mitochondrial function and has been shown to cause insulin resistance in animals.

The EPA last thoroughly examined the health effects of atrazine in 2003, deeming it safe, but since that time 150 new studies have been published, in addition to documentation about the presence of atrazine in drinking water, prompting the agency to actively monitor our water supply. You can minimize your exposure to atrazine by buying organic produce, particularly corn.

2. Bisphenol-A (BPA): Traditionally used worldwide in plastics used for food and drink storage, BPA has long been known to mimic estrogen and has been associated with impaired reproductive function, but it’s also an obesogen. A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that BPA is responsible for starting a biochemical cascade within fat cells that increases inflammation and promotes fat-cell growth. Anytime you purchase canned goods or food in plastic containers (including bottled water), be sure the product is labeled as “BPA free.”

3. Mercury: Another reason to avoid high-fructose corn syrup (as if you need one): The processing used to make this sweetener leaves small amounts of mercury in the syrup. That may seem inconsequential, but at the rate Americans consume high fructose corn syrup, the added mercury could be a problem. Even if you eliminate HFCS from your diet, canned tuna-a staple in many healthy lunches-can also contain mercury. As long as you stick to no more than three cans of tuna a week, you should be fine. It’s also a good idea to avoid chunk white tuna, which has more than double the mercury of chunk light tuna.

4. Triclosan: Hand sanitizers, soaps, and toothpastes often add triclosan for its antibacterial properties. However, animal studies have shown that this chemical negatively impacts thyroid function. The FDA is currently reviewing all available safety and effectiveness data on triclosan, including information concerning bacterial resistance and endocrine disruption. For now, the FDA considers the chemical safe, but further research needs to be done to determine if and at what dosage triclosan decreases thyroid hormone levels in humans. If you would rather take action now, check the labels of your hand sanitizer, soaps, and toothpaste to be sure triclosan isn’t listed.

5. Phthalates:
 These chemicals are added to plastics to in order to improve their durability, flexibility, and transparency and are also found in pacifiers, children’s toys, and personal care products such as soap, shampoo, hair spray, and nail polish. Korean researchers found higher levels of phthalates in obese children than in healthy-weight kids, with those levels correlating to both BMI and body mass. Scientists at the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York found a similar relationship between phthalate levels and weight in young girls. In addition to buying phthalate-free baby products and toys (Evenflo, Gerber, and Lego have all said they will stop using phthalates), you can search the Environmental Working Group’s database to check if your bath and beauty products contain any toxins.

6. Tributyltin: While tributyltin is used in an anti-fungal compound on food crops, its primary use is in paints and stains used on boats where it serves to prevent bacterial growth. Animal studies have shown that exposure to this chemical can accelerate the growth of fat cells in newborns. Unfortunately, tributyltin has been found in household dust, making our exposure to it more widespread than initially thought.

Our regulatory agencies all allow these six chemicals to be widely used. This is in spite of any research that shows there are or may be detrimental effects on humans. That opens a whole series of questions and debates that  mostly seem to be designed around how to keep these chemicals legal to use instead of what makes Jack and Jill healthy.

Remember when they discovered perchlorate had contaminated drinking water? Perchlorate is a salt used in rocket fuel and explosives and is known to disrupt  thyroid function.  When plumes of this toxin were traced back to rocket fuel manufacturing sites that dumped the stuff on the ground (cutting edge environmental practice in the 50’s and 60’s), the debate quickly became how much is allowable in our drinking water.

Thyroid damage be damned. It’s rocket fuel in our drinking water.  It’s still about how much is ok for us to drink. It’s not  rocket science. It’s  mos assuredly not about how to clean it up.  We’re the guinea pigs here.  Anyone else find this disturbing?

Playing the ‘Is It Healthy?” Game is about paying attention to what you put into your mouth.

 

BPA in Mothers May Harm Newborns

Distressing News: BPA in Mothers May Harm Newborns

June 18, 2013

Alliance for Natural Health

bpa09 BPA09, NWS, PORTER, 1It’s time to take the BPA fight to the state legislatures. Action Alerts!

Three recent studies paint a bleak picture about both the health risks and the prevalence of bisphenol A (BPA), a known endocrine disruptor.

A Dutch study has found that fetuses of mothers who have high levels of BPA in their systems grow more slowly, have smaller heads, and weigh 20% less at birth compared with babies born to women with the lowest BPA levels.

Moreover, BPA may have multigenerational effects. A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Endocrinology demonstrated that exposure to even very low levels of BPA during pregnancy results in adverse behavioral effects in mice carried forward over three generations. The multi-generational effects result from an epigenetic mechanism.

In a third study, children and adolescents with high levels of urinary BPA showed evidence of low-grade albuminuria (where the kidney has experienced damage and is starting to spill some albumin into the urine). Damage at this early stage may have implications for the later development of kidney and cardiovascular disease.

Despite growing evidence to the contrary, FDA’s assessment is that BPA is safe at low levels. The FDA rejected a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council to ban BPA in food containers. ANH-USA’s petition to the Consumer Protection Agency was denied, and we still haven’t received a response to our OSHA petition regarding BPA in thermal register receipts.

Given the federal government’s inaction, if we are to make progress on BPA, it will have to occur at the state level. This approach has already created positive change: the chemical industry voluntarily petitioned the FDA to limit BPA in baby food containers—and of course, since it came from the chemical industry, the FDA listened without commenting on the question of safety!

Action Alerts! If you live in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, or Pennsylvania, please write to your state legislators and ask them to support these important BPA bills:

Connecticut: S.16 would require all food containers containing BPA to be labeled as such. Take Action!

Massachusetts: S.400 would ban BPA in toys, and mandate that manufacturers use the least toxic alternative as a replacement. Take Action!

New York: A.1654 and S.4709 would prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution of business transaction paper containing BPA; S.3533 would prohibit the sale of toys, as well as liquids, foods, and beverages in containers that are intended for children 3 and younger if they contain BPA. This bill would also require manufacturers to use the least toxic alternative chemical compound to replace BPA. Take Action!

Pennsylvania: H.377 and S.490 would ban BPA in children’s and toddlers’ products, and mandates that manufacturers use the least toxic alternative as a replacement. Take Action!

With the predominant use of plastic bottles and canned food in America, the urgency to take action against increased intake of Bisphenol A (BPA) is vital. With recent studies linking BPA to harming estrogenic effects and infertility, Dr. Bob, D.C., NHD, “The Drugless Doctor” has compiled various all-natural tips to ensure female’s safety from toxic damages.

1) Be Cautious of BPA Heavy Products: Canned foods, lined with high traced of BPA resin, liquid packets, and plastics marked with the number “#7” can all contain high amounts of BPA. It’s best to opt for ceramic, glass, stainless steel, and other “cooking-safe dishware” and avoid all use of any old or stretched polycarbonate bottles.

2) Conduct a Urine Iodine Loading Test: It’s critical to test the iodine level in urine as the element, often disrupted by BPA, is crucial for normal thyroid gland function.  The Estronex Urine Profile™ also assesses the risk of developing estrogen sensitive cancers and a collateral damage challenge precipitated by BPA.

3) Limit Gluten Consumption: Gluten is known to create adrenal stress, which in turn causes adrenal exhaustion negating the balance between DHEA, progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen. Optimal adrenal function is necessary to “push” toxic minerals and their counter parts from the body. The imbalances relates to women’s inability to become pregnant, or stay with child.

4) Perform Routine Cleanses: As it is nearly impossible to steer completely clear of BPA exposure, it’s important to cleanse every so often with cleaning herbs, milk thistle, and dandelion root. “Dr. Bob’s Drugless Guide to Detoxification” plans optimal wellness from the body inside and out.

Dr. Bob, “The Drugless Doctor” continually shares clinically proven and time-tested resulted to further enrich and guide patients to optimal health. For more information visit DruglessDoctor.com and his latest “Get to Know” series video.

Burning Question: Is it OK to Heat Food in Plastic?

Lunch at your desk can be a downer, especially when it involves leftovers reheated in the office microwave. But are you putting more into your body than just lukewarm pad thai? Rolf Halden, the director for the Center for Environmental Security at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, stirs the pot.

“We don’t know if and how many people die from plastic exposure,” says Dr. Halden, “but we do know that in the developed world we suffer from a lot of diseases—breast cancer, obesity and early onset puberty—that are less prevalent in developing countries. These are a result of our lifestyle.” He adds:

“From a public health perspective, we should consider heated plastic an unnecessary source of exposure to harmful elements and eliminate it.”

Two to Watch

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Alamy

There are two chemicals in it to watch out for in plastics: phthalates and bisphenol A (also known as BPA).

Since plastic was first synthesized in the early 1900s, it has evolved into everything from lifesaving medical devices to a softening agent in hair conditioner. Plastic is ubiquitous but there are two chemicals in it to watch out for when it comes to what your body ingests.

Phthalates, the chemicals that make a PVC container flexible, “can migrate out of the plastic when it’s heated,” says Dr. Halden, who has done comprehensive studies on emerging contaminants and plastics for more than a decade.

Phthalates can leach into food, resulting in:

  • hormone imbalances and
  • birth defects—although no one knows at what level those effects are triggered, he says.
  • Phthalates are present in measurable levels in the blood of nearly every person in the developed world, he adds.

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a potentially worse offender. Once tested for possible use as an estrogen replacement, BPA was found to be of better use in the mass production of polycarbonate plastic. It’s used in everything from the lining of metal soup cans to receipt paper. The FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles in July 2012, because of growing consumer concerns over its link to developmental delays.

While the recycling numbers at the bottom of plastic items “are not meant to provide health information or risks,” Dr. Halden says, they can sometimes provide clues to the chemicals in them. For example, No. 7, says Dr. Halden, means “there is a high likelihood” that Bisphenol A is in it.

That reusable water bottle sitting on your desk? “Think of it as one big BPA vessel,” he says.

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Alamy

Lunch at your desk can be a downer, especially when it involves leftovers reheated in the office microwave.

When to Toss It

The amount of chemicals leaching into food depends on the type of plastic that is put in the microwave, the time it is heated and the physical condition of the container, says Dr. Halden. Old, cracked containers and those that have been washed hundreds of times often give off more toxins when heated. Any deformities or discoloration are a sign it’s time for the recycling bin.

And reheating foods heavy in cream and butter in plastic is always a bad idea. “Fatty foods absorb more of these harmful chemicals when heated,” he says.

Another Way to Reheat

Rather than torturing yourself over what plastic is safe, use an inert container such as glass or ceramic, he suggests. Along with cold spots in food that could harbor bacteria, Dr. Halden points to another reason to avoid reheating in the microwave: taste. “Food tastes much better if it is prepared in a hot oven or on the stove, and not cold on the inside and too hot on the outside,” he says.

A version of this article appeared April 22, 2013, on page D4 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: BURNING QUESTION: Is it OK to heat food in plastic?.

No Ill Effect Found in Human BPA Exposure

BOSTON—Human exposure to a controversial ingredient in many plastic bottles and food containers is too low to be worrisome, according to a closer look at 150 studies of an additive called bisphenol A, widely known as BPA.

bpa water bottlesA toxicologist at the federal Pacific Northwest National Laboratory reported Friday that he had re-examined studies covering blood levels of BPA, which in high enough doses can mimic the sex hormone estrogen, among 30,000 people in 19 countries, including women and infants.

He found the exposure levels generally much too low to affect the human body.

“It is thousands of times lower than the levels you see in animals that do cause effects,” said Justin Teeguarden, a senior research scientist who conducted the analysis at the Department of Energy laboratory in Richland, Wash.

Mr. Teeguarden presented his research, which was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, at the annual meeting here of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The findings are the latest in a broad-ranging scientific controversy that has continued for a decade or more over the safety of the world’s food supply and the possible role that BPA may play in a variety of public-health problems.

Among other applications, BPA is used in bottles, soda cans, food containers and many other consumer goods, to harden the plastics from which they are made and to prevent the growth of germs.

Last summer, the Food and Drug Administration banned its use in baby bottles and infant cups but continued to stand behind its safety in other products.

The World Health Organization, the European Food Safety Authority and Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have all discounted its risk to human health.

Write to Robert Lee Hotz at sciencejournal@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared February 16, 2013, on page A3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: No Ill Effect Found in Human BPA Exposure.

Resource:

Reference: Justin Teeguarden, Estrogen Receptor Activation Potential of Internal Concentrations of BPA in Humans, Feb. 16, 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m., Room 302, Hynes Convention Center. http://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2013/webprogram/Paper8720.html

7 Foods Experts Won’t Eat

1. Canned Tomatoes

The Expert: Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A.

The Situation: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people’s body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. “You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young,” says vom Saal. “I won’t go near canned tomatoes.”

The Answer: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe’s and Pomi.

Siri Says: A very dear friend of ours sent us this 7 foods article. Oh, bummer! Every winter I buy a 12 pack of organic chopped tomatoes for my winter soups and stews. Well, of course, I didn’t buy them this winter and I tossed the last can. (Throwing food away — ouch!)

Do watch the video below. It is quite helpful. However, I’ll tel you now, there are no tomatoes in BPA-free cans, and you’ll have to search for those in glass. I found organic tomato sauce and canned sun-dried toms at my organic grocers. A brief google search was very unsatisfactory — with one food site trying to convince me that BPA in tomato cans wasn’t that big a deal!!!

We haven’t been lucky enough to have a big crop of summer tomatoes to can. But boy, we sure can grow tiny tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and Japanese egg plant! Odd about the tomatoes, isn’t it?

Which cans are BPA Free? Watch the Video.

2. Corn-Fed Beef

The Expert: Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming.

The Situation: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. More money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. “We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure,” says Salatin.

The Answer: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers’ markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It’s usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don’t see it, ask your butcher.


WATCH VIDEO: Why Grass-Fed Beef? Emeril Answers

3. Microwave Popcorn

The Expert: Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group.

The Situation: Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize—and migrate into your popcorn. “They stay in your body for years and accumulate there,” says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.

The Solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.

The FDA says it’s safe. How about you? Watch the Video.


4. Conventionally Grown (Not Organic) Potatoes

The Expert: Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board.

The Situation: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes—the nation’s most popular vegetable—they’re treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they’re dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. “Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won’t,” says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). “I’ve talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals.”

The Answer: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn’t good enough if you’re trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.

5. Farmed Salmon

The Expert: David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and publisher of a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish.

The Situation: Nature didn’t intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. “You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer,” says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. “It’s that bad.” Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.

The Answer: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it’s farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

Other costs and impacts of farmed salmon in the video.


6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones

The Expert: Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society.

The Situation: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. “When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract,” says North. As it turns out, the casein in milk protects most of it, according to several independent studies. “There’s not 100% proof that this is increasing cancer in humans,” admits North. “However, it’s banned in most industrialized countries.”

The Answer: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.

For a little back story on the story you didn’t get, watch the video.


7. Conventional Apples

The Expert: Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods

The Situation: If fall fruits held a “most doused in pesticides contest,” apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don’t develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it’s just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. “Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers,” he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson’s disease.

The Answer: Buy organic apples. If you can’t afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them first.

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