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More Deadly Chemicals Looming in Foods We Already Eat; FDA Warns of Acrylamide

It’s time for our weekly “Everything You Eat Will Somehow Kill You” blog post. We all know the health consequences of eating fast food and oversized restaurant portions, and just last week we learned that many seemingly harmless grocery store products secretly contain trans fat. Personally, I’ve been avoiding all risk by subsisting on small berries and nuts I gather through urban foraging, and when I want to treat myself to an actual meal, I haven’t dared venture out of my chemical-free kitchen. But my extreme measures may be all for naught, as the FDA has revealed that cooking food at home—even the most organic of natural grains and vegetables—could kill us all.

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Pardon my apocalyptic tone, but it’s true. Acrylamide—a chemical that naturally forms in foods prepared at high temperatures—is a carcinogen that can cause severe nerve damage in high doses. A scary fact when you consider the stuff “is found in 40 percent of the calories consumed in the average American diet,” according to the FDA in a release posted today.

Side note: acrylamide is also used as an industrial chemical in waste water treatment. Yum.
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Moms Petition Kraft to Get the Dyes Out of Our Macaroni and Cheese

It’s easily arguable that many families have a box of macaroni and cheese mix in their cabinets right now. It’s basically a staple in most homes, especially those with children. Many of us grew up with mac and cheese, and not just any brand, but specifically the blue box, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Today the brand is just as popular, but those who read labels have discovered that this food contains some of the most family unfriendly ingredients and they want it changed.

Vani Hari runs the website Food Babe and Lisa Leake is the voice behind the blog 100 Days of Real Food. Together these two women have made some noise as they have brought the ingredients of Kraft’s mac and cheese to light. The American version of this boxed food contains artificial food dyes, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. Hari and Leake are out to change this.

The two women have created an online petition to the Kraft company asking people to understand the dangers of the dyes and then sign the petition to get them removed. The information around the petition states that the mac and cheese in the UK does not contain the dyes. They were removed when the public cried out. Curious why they were left in the American product? Hari and Leake are too.
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Your Perfume May be Increasing Your Risk for Diabetes

Many people in the United States are being exposed to a chemical called phthalates, which is found in every day things like perfumes, scented lotions, industrial paints, solvents, packaging, scented candles and almost anything else containing fragrance.

In Environmental Health Perspective’s recent study on diabetes and phthalates, they attempted to see if there was something connecting the two. The study was only done on women since the phthalates levels seem to be higher in them than men. The National Health and Nutrition Examination surveyed about 2,350 women. Each woman gave urine samples for chemical testing (questions on diabetes status and phthalates levels were not gathered at the same time which makes the study cross-sectional).

What the examination revealed was that per 1,000 women, there were 40 extra diabetes cases in the women who contained higher phthalates levels compared to those with lower levels. That means the risk of diabetes is twice as high in women who contain higher phthalates levels. Something to consider is that people who have diabetes might have higher phthalates levels because of the particular medications and medical devices that are used to actually treat the disease. Phthalates chemicals are found in many of these products as well. This study did not rule out this detail.
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Obesity Might Involve More Than Calories In, Calories Out

by Arleigh Aldrich

More and more studies are surfacing with the argument that it’s not just how much we eat that is fueling obesity, but what we’re eating. For years, scientists and nutritionists have adhered to the “calories in, calories out” model, in which one loses weight by burning more calories than they intake. Now researchers are asking if pollutants that make their way into our food affect that model.

The culprits on trial are called “obesogens,” a new term coined to describe organic pollutants such as pesticides for crops and slimicides for water purification. Here’s the question: If I consume a diet with ingredients exposed to obesogens containing X amount of calories, will it cause me to gain more weight than if my diet didn’t contain those pollutants?

Bruce Blumberg, professor of developmental and cell biology and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California, says yes. Blumberg coined the term obesogens and claims they have an effect on how the body responds to calories and stores fat. In his study, one group of rats was fed a diet which contained the pollutants tributyltin and triphenyltin, and the other fed a diet with the same amount of calories, sans the pollutants. He found the rats who were fed the pollutants were found to have larger and higher quantities of fat cells.


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BHA is Lurking in Your Cereal, but is it Safe?

By Lauren O’Connor, MS, RD for Nutri-Savvy.

You may tread on it, wear it, and yes, even ingest it! The same chemical used in making tires and the make-up you wear may be found in a wide variety of common, everyday food products.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a synthetic chemical found in petroleum, rubber, cosmetics, animal feed, and food packaging. Because it prevents oxidation, it is also used to “preserve freshness” in food products. It works by retarding rancidity and eliminating odors in fat and oil-containing foods. Though an “antioxidant,” this widely-used substance may be cause for concern.

The exposure to BHA in foods increased nearly two-fold from the 1970s to the early eighties, with US annual usage rising from 170,000 kg to 300,000 kg. The additive may be found in butter, meats, cereals, chewing gum, baked goods, snacks, nut products, dry beverage mixes, active dry yeast, dehydrated potatoes and beer! And let’s not forget the environment: If you work around livestock or in the cosmetics, rubber or petroleum industries, you have increased exposure. Fast-food employees who cook and serve fried, oily foods are also more exposed.
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