We generally only question the safety of our food in Asian countries, or at dicey Mexican mystery meat takeaways. These sort of food toxins take quite obvious and violent effects on our health. Often, we forget to consider more sinister, and less obvious food toxins consumed on a daily basis. While 24 hours spent over the toilet (thanks, seafood cocktail sushi!) is unpleasant, the food toxins with less acute affects are more worrying.
BPA stands for bisphenol A. You may have heard of it before. I will admit until I investigated it for myself, I thought BPA was a health con. A myth made up to scare the health conscious into paying more for the same products. I shook my head when my mother scolded me for reusing a disposable mount franklin bottle. I simply could not understand when she spent $30 on a special ‘BPA free’ water bottle that appeared to be nothing special. My research proved, mother really does know best.
BPA is an incidental food toxin which means it isn’t actually found on the food, but is transferred to the food, via contact with the toxin. BPA is found in most things made of plastic. The biggest offenders are water bottles, medical equipment, plastic wrapped food (so basically anything processed), baby bottles and canned foods. As you can tell, this is a wide variety of foods, to which we are constantly exposed. This constant exposure comes with some serious health effects.
BPA is an endocrine disruptor. It looks very similar to oestrogen. Since it so closely resembles oestrogen, it is able to bind the oestrogen receptor, and elicit the oestrogen response. You can think of it like a chemical in disguise. BPA binds the oestrogen receptor with 10 times the affinity of normal oestrogen. Oestrogen pops on and off its receptor easily, to modulate the response and not overwhelm the body with oestrogen signals. BPA, on the other hand, constantly stimulates the receptor, overloading the body with oestrogen signals. This throws your hormone balance way out of whack and causes some pretty scary side effects.
Some of the negative health consequences associated with BPA include; liver damage, pancreas damage, type 2 diabetes, impaired thyroid function, obesity, early onset of sexual maturation, reproductive dysfunction, impaired immune function, abnormal growth, cardiovascular disease and more.
BPA is particularly damaging when exposed to infants in the form of baby bottles. I strongly suggest switching to BPA free alternatives. Although more expensive, BPA free is worth it. Reducing your consumption of processed foods will also aid in limiting BPA. By choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, we can assist in health in more ways than one.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) is another food toxin we should be talking about. Unlike BPA, it is a direct food toxin, meaning that it arises from the food itself. It occurs mostly in meats that have been chargrilled, roasted, baked or barbequed. These PAH’s are carcinogenic. They are a good example of how we can increase the health of our diets without actually changing the type of food we eat. Making drastic changes to your diet can be challenging and confronting, by making small changes in how we cook our food we can make big changes to health. Start with less charring and try boiling or oven baking.
Pesticides are sprayed on crops to keep bugs off. The upside is farmers getting larger more consistent yields. In turn, they can charge lower prices, which is a win for us. However, there is always a trade-off. Pesticides aren’t good for us, we know that much. We don’t really know exactly just how bad they are. Studies have shown that in large doses, pesticides can because cancer, Parkinson’s disease and immune deficiency. The effects of long term, low exposure (for example on our fruit and veg), is as yet unknown. However, the outset does not look good. To make a healthier choice, buy organic where you can. If this is too heavy on the pocket for you, start your own veggie patch at home.
Food poisoning isn’t the only way food toxins affect our health. There are sneakier, less suspected toxins that can do some serious long-term damage. Make the effort to educate yourself on food toxins and make small, manageable changes to achieve a healthier life. If food toxins are something that interest you I encourage to continue your research, as this article is by no means a comprehensive list. The following is a good starting point: http://foodsafety.asn.au/natural-toxins-in-food/. Always check the reliability of your sources when researching, as the topic of food toxins often attracts writers who like to blow things out of proportion, do not consult the evidence and use scare tactics. Happy reading!
Renae Earle is a Masters of Dietetics student at the University of Queensland. Having achieved her Bachelor of Exercise and Nutrition Science with distinction, she is motivated to complete her studies and become an accredited practicing dietitian.
Renae is passionate about evidence-based practice and debunking nutrition myths. She believes that in today’s fad celebrity diet culture, it is increasingly important to deliver the facts. She aims to help people achieve a sustainable and healthful lifestyle by combating the flurry of misinformation offered by tabloids and social media.
In order to achieve this goal, Renae has dedicated herself to the field of nutrition. She is well educated on a wide range of nutrition topics such as supplementation, chronic disease, restrictive diets and metabolism.
Renae has a keen interest in offering personalised nutrition plans that suit the specific needs of her future clients.