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Is any amount of food contaminant safe? How pollution could be ruining your health

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Study suggests even low levels of food contaminants are unsafe

Researchers have been studying the effects of environmental pollution and its impact on health. Results of a new study shows even low levels of contaminants that pollute our food could lead to chronic health issues like diabetes and obesity that can't be undone with watching what we eat and exercising.

Lifetime exposure adds up

The report, published in the FASEB journal, supports everything that consumer groups like the EWG has been telling the public for years. Chemicals in our environment are bad for health.

Metabolic disorders include diabetes, thyroid disorders and obesity, all of which are common. Topping the list are diabetes and obesity. Millions of dollars are being spent on research and drug development to treat the problems.

Why diet and exercise fail

The new research suggests we’re getting sick and staying that way not because of how we eat and what we do. Instead, it may be pollution in our food that is the culprit.

Brigitte Le Magueresse-Battistoni, a researcher involved in the work from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) said in a press release” "Indeed, one pollutant could have a different effect when in mixture with other pollutants.”

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She adds the finding could have implications for food security, adding that new data suggests metabolic diseases are linked to pollution. A prime example is BPA that has repeatedly been linked to a variety of health problems.

Other common food contaminants include 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin that is found in meat and dairy products, polychlorinated biphenyl 153 or PCB that is found in fish and drinking water and diethylhexyl phthalate. that is used in plastics and leaches into our food.

The researchers came to their conclusion after studying two groups of obese mice. Both groups were given a high fat, sucrose rich diet. One group was fed food with small amounts of contaminants. The mice were given the same food from pre-conception into adulthood.

Mice given food that was polluted with very low-level amounts of contaminants didn't become toxic or obese, but females did experience a decline in glucose tolerance, the researchers found.

The finding suggests environmental food contaminants interfere with elimination of estrogen through the liver from a defect in estrogen signaling.

Male mice showed changes in cholesterol synthesis and transport that can lead to diabetes and other chronic diseases.

"This report that confirms something we've known for a long time: pollution is bad for us," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.

Weissmann adds that it may be too “simplistic” to look at the effect of food contaminants and pollutants on an individual basis. When they all act together the impact on public health could be “significant”, he says. What is in our food that is toxic could be the culprit for diabetes and other chronic diseases, even at 'safe' levels, the study suggests.

FASEB J September 2013 27:3860-3870, doi:10.1096/fj.13-231670 ; http://www.fasebj.org/content/27/9/3860.abstract