Thursday, April 21, 2016

Phthlates and fast food

[Another Food Scare!]

Fast-food eaters have more industrial chemicals in their bodies

April 13, 2016

NEW YORK — People who reported eating fast food in the last 24 hours had elevated levels of some industrial chemicals in their bodies, according to a new analysis of data from federal nutrition surveys.

The study is the first broad look at how fast food may expose the public to certain chemicals, called phthalates, that are used to make plastics more flexible and durable. The chemicals, which don’t occur in nature, are common in cosmetics, soap, food packaging, flooring, window blinds, and other consumer products. The Centers for Disease Control says “phthalate exposure is widespread in the US population”.

Though the health consequences of encountering these substances aren’t fully known, scientists have increasingly focused on their effects on health and development, particularly for pregnant women and children. Research in rats has shown that they can disrupt the male reproductive system, and there’s evidence for similar effects in humans.

The latest research suggests that fast food is a significant source of the chemicals, which may leach into food from machinery used in processing or packaging, or from gloves worn by workers.

[OMG! Tell those workers to stop wearing gloves! We're better off with Typhoid, Dysentery, E Coli, and other food poisoning than for us to continue to consume INDUSTRIAL chemicals with GOD KNOWS WHAT harmful effect on our bodies! OMG! We're doomed! Doomed! Doomed! With a Capital "D"!]

“Right now there are few choices for individuals who are interested in reducing their exposure, and there’s also not very much regulation” of phthalates, said Dr Ami Zota, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. In the US, “research happens once they’ve been introduced in commerce, rather than before”, she said.

[For Gawd's sake, REGULATE the hell out of Phthalates!]

Dr Zota and colleagues from GW analysed data from almost 9,000 people who participated in federal nutrition surveys between 2003 and 2010. Participants answered detailed questions about what they ate in the last 24 hours and gave urine samples that were analysed for by-products that indicated the presence of three chemicals. The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health.

For two of the three substances Dr Zota examined — phthalates designated as DEHP and DiNP — there was a significant relationship between fast-food intake and exposure. People who ate more fast food had more evidence of phthalates in their urine. The third chemical they measured was Bisphenol A, or BPA, which is commonly used to line aluminium cans. That wasn’t significantly correlated with fast-food intake.

It’s difficult to determine what the health risks of phthalates are. The American Chemistry Council says that they’ve been thoroughly studied and “phthalates used in commercial products do not pose a risk to human health at typical exposure levels”. The Environmental Protection Agency, in a 2012 Phthalates Action Plan, notes that it is “concerned about phthalates because of their toxicity and the evidence of pervasive human and environmental exposure to them”.

[WTF! Eat Fast Food = More Phthalates. Phthalates are Toxic. So WTF are the toxicity levels from eating fast food? How many Cheeseburgers will it take to Kill me?!?!?]

Japan banned vinyl gloves in food preparation over concerns about DEHP, and the European Union has limited the use of the chemicals in food products and toys. Some phthalates, including DEHP, were restricted in children’s toys in the US by a 2008 law.

The latest study is based on snapshot surveys, rather than following people over time. So it can’t establish that eating fast food caused people to have elevated levels of phthalates, but the association is strong. It also doesn’t tell us anything about the health effects of potential exposure to the chemicals from eating fast food.

[Panicky yet? Then the news report is working as intended. Now calm down and read carefully:

"Phthalates exposure is widespread in the US population." So what is the adverse effect of this widespread exposure? I dunno. I think it makes people vote for Donald Trump. That's pretty worrying.

Fast food is a significant source of phthalates... and gloves... oh and by the way, milk. And spices:
...DEHP levels in the local, organic group jumped 2,377% over the course of the experiment. Determined to figure out why, the researchers tested all of the foods consumed by the group and found high levels of the phthalate in dairy products and various organic, imported spices.
So it's not just fast food.

And WHAT diseases or health problems exactly does phthlates cause? Well, here is the summary of the possible effects.

But... you say, that study is from 2003! Yes. Please find a more recent study with significant new effects. I picked that one because it seemed to have the most comprehensive list of adverse effects. 

The cost of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, a group that includes phthalates, in the EU is estimated to be €163 billion (S$249.1 billion) annually, or 1.28 per cent of the EU’s gross domestic product, according to a recent paper by Dr Leo Trasande, associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine, and population health at NYU School of Medicine. He said the study out today ”adds further data to support the notion that people should avoid eating highly processed or highly packaged foods”. That doesn’t mean just junk food, he notes. Canned vegetables or organic milk that’s been piped through plastic tubing could carry the same chemical risks. “It’s not fair to say, ‘Oh, these exposures only happen if you eat unhealthy foods’.”

Dr Zota said that for people interested in reducing their exposure, “common-sense approaches will take you a long way. Eat organic when you can. If you can’t still, try to eat fresh vegetables,” she said. “Try to eat low on the food chain.”

[So in one para, the doctor notes that even organic milk can have phthalates. And in the next, he recommends you eat organic? That is... illogical.]


Science briefs : Study: Fast food high in industrial chemicals

Study: Fast food high in industrial chemicals

Fast food has never been known for being healthy, but it may be even more harmful than previously thought.

Researchers at George Washington University in the United States have found that eating fast food exposes the body to a class of industrial chemicals called phthalates.

Phthalates are used in the manufacture of plastic food- packaging material.

In the study, people who had eaten fast food had phthalate levels up to 40 per cent higher than those who had not.

"Our findings raise concerns because phthalates have been linked to a number of serious health problems in children and adults," said lead researcher Ami Zota.

For example, studies have suggested that phthalates can damage the reproductive system and lead to infertility.

Other research suggests that these chemicals can leach out of plastic food packaging and contaminate processed food.

In 2008, the US Congress banned the use of phthalates in the production of children's toys because of health concerns.

The researchers obtained data on 8,877 participants' diets in the past 24 hours through detailed questionnaires, and quantified the phthalates in their bodies through urine testing.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, reported that meat and fast-food grain items, such as bread, cake, pizza and noodles, contributed significantly to phthalate exposure.

Dr Zota said that frequent consumption of fast food is not recommended, owing to its high fat and salt content.

She added: "People concerned about this issue can't go wrong by eating more fruit and vegetables and less fast food. A diet filled with whole foods offers a variety of health benefits that go far beyond the question of phthalates."

Besides food, phthalates also occur in a wide variety of products like toys and perfume.

[The rest of the news summary is on other subjects and has been greyed.

But... overall, this news article is just a "naggy" article. It tells you nothing new. It hints at health effects, but other than infertility, has no other specific health concern to scare us with. Then since we are on the subject of fast food and why it's bad - high fat and salt content (nag), so eat more fruits and veggies (nag!), and whole food (nag!). Except Milk. That might have Phthalates.]

Brain development linked to attentiveness

Remember the doctor monitoring your growth as a child by taking measurements of height and weight? Maybe he should measure your brain too, scientists say.

Researchers at the University of Michigan mapped the networks of nerve cells in the brains of more than 500 children using magnetic resonance imaging and found that those with underdeveloped networks had difficulty paying attention.

The children's ability to pay attention was measured using a standard test that required them to respond to a sequence of letters and numbers on a computer screen.

"Growth charts enable a family and their physician to quickly spot problematic development and, when necessary, intervene appropriately," said lead researcher Chandra Sripada.

"In the future, we want to provide clinicians with the same sort of guidance about brain development that we can about things like height and weight."

The study was launched after the researchers noticed a knowledge gap in how brain development is related to attention, despite the fact that attention span increases dramatically as a child grows.

The researchers said that separate networks in the brain are responsible for self- reflection and day-dreaming, versus doing cognitively demanding tasks, and that these networks become more distinct from each other with age.

In a person with attention difficulties, the "daydreaming" network turns on periodically and interrupts the other types of network. The researchers said that although the results are promising, much more work is needed before the technique is ready for clinical use.

How gene diversity can curb spread of disease

It is well known that the common agricultural practice of growing large tracts of the same genetic variety of food crop, known as monoculture, increases the risk of a disease wiping out the entire crop. But the reason for this is not clear.

Through experiments where bacterial populations were infected with viruses, a team of researchers from the United States and Europe have found a possible mechanism by which genetic diversity could suppress disease.

When the virus was introduced into a monoculture of bacteria with little genetic variation, it spread rapidly because it was able to evolve fast enough to overcome the similar immune systems throughout the bacterial population.

However, when faced with a genetically diverse bacterial population, the virus could not deal with the great variety of bacterial immune systems it encountered, and died out.

The researchers, who published their study in the journal Nature, said in a statement that their findings were potentially applicable to agriculture and nature conservation.

Compiled by Lin Yangchen

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