This Common Food Packaging Wrecks Your Health
We all know that the typical American diet makes us gain weight. It leads directly to diabetes. It lays the groundwork for heart disease and raises our blood pressure. The average diet is high in carbs, low in nutrition, and all-round bad for us. This isn't news. But information uncovered by a new study from the University of Leipzig, Germany, is.
The study, published in the prestigious journal PLOS One, suggests that the situation may be even worse than we thought.
Our food is making us sick, but the packaging may be worse
The study found that a chemical used in plastic food packaging causes weight gain, even at very low levels — levels similar to what we're exposed to daily through our food. The chemical, a type of phthalate, is used in many different types of plastic to make them soft or flexible. It's also added to make them sturdier and more durable.
Researchers looked at how mice responded to ingesting different levels of this substance, and what they found should be a wake-up call. Even very low levels this toxin affected metabolism and caused weight gain. It caused hormone imbalances. It disrupted the endocrine system and affected estrogen. It changed the way fat behaves, which affects other organs. And most concerning, these changes only happened in female mice. The males appeared to be unaffected.
Are we poisoning our women and girls on a daily basis, through the very food we eat? The bulk of supermarket foods are packaged in plastic — plastic film, plastic trays, plastic bags, plastic canisters. Milk, meat, cheese, some vegetables and fruits, and a variety of dry goods are packaged in plastic. It's almost impossible to avoid if you're buying food from conventional sources. This study hinted that simply eating conventionally-packaged food — especially if you're a woman — could have a detrimental effect on metabolism and weight.
Weight gain is the least of our worries when it comes to these chemicals
The German study is just the tip of the iceberg, though — an iceberg Big Food would like to keep hidden in an ocean of misinformation. These chemicals have been linked to an increasing number of health problems, from childhood asthma and low birth weight to high blood pressure and even breast cancer.
And we've known about the link for years.
A 2012 study from Brigham and Women's Hospital found that women with the highest levels of phthalates in their systems were seventy percent more likely to develop diabetes than those with the lowest levels.
Kids whose mothers were exposed to phthalates while they were pregnant were 70% more likely to develop asthma. Phthalate exposure was linked to premature births. And this year, researchers found that the higher the levels of phthalates in your system — particularly the ones used in food packaging — the higher your blood pressure is. The same is true for insulin resistance. And a study of women working the automotive and food-canning industries, both of which involve high levels of phthalates, found that they were nearly five times as likely than other women to develop breast cancer before menopause.
And now for the truly scary part: nearly all Americans tested for phthalates have them in their urine.
This stuff is everywhere. Here's what you can do
It's not just food packaging and containers that's rife with this stuff. It's in thousands of consumer products and sometimes even in medicines. That's right. Phthalates are sometimes used as a coating on Big Pharma's pills. You'll also find them in things like:
- Shampoos and lotions
- Baby products like talcum powder and baby shampoo
- Building materials
- Printer ink
- Some textiles
- Plastic toys
- Plastic dishes
The list is nearly endless. What can you do to avoid this potent toxin? The first step is to avoid buying any foodstuff that is packaged in plastic, from that steak wrapped in cling film to the craisins in a resealable plastic bag.
Next, begin reading labels on everything, not just food. Pay special attention to plastic items and look for the following phrases:
- Avoid plastic containers that have a recycle code of 3, 6, or 7 — the number will be inside the "recycle" symbol.
- Don't microwave food in plastic. That means plastic dishes, plastic bags, or covered by plastic film.
- Don't wash plastic containers in the dishwasher. The intensity of the wash cycle can make chemicals leak out.
There are so many different hazards to our health. Most of them are completely out of our hands. In this case, we can take some small steps in the right direction. And maybe, just maybe, if we stop buying things that include this toxic chemical, manufacturers will simply stop making them.
We can dream.
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