Posted on November 17, 2009 - by

You Are What You Eat!


Bill Couzens HeadshotBy: Bill Couzens
Bill Couzens is the Founder of Less Cancer

In the work to raise awareness for unnecessary and preventable exposures that may contribute to health effects including cancer, food should be considered.  Consumers must move away from the practice of pulling foods off the shelf with little knowledge of what they and their families eating.

Scientists have documented many examples of environmental exposures that are known to increase cancer risk include: smoking, UV light, asbestos, some pesticides, hormones, metals, vinyl chloride, gasoline, and small particulates from automobile and coal-fired power plants, to name a few.

What about contaminants in food?

Dr Maryann Donovan from the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Institute (CEO-UPCI) says that  “consumers do need to become more selective when shopping for all products but especially food.  Scientists at the CEO-UPCI have measured contaminants in canned food at levels that can cause biological effects in laboratory studies. There are a number of published studies showing that some ingredients in products that we use in our homes, schools and communities are toxic and some have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory studies. Examples of possible food contaminants can include pesticide residues or bisphenol A. (BPA), a component of the resin that lines some cans and can leach into food”.

BPA, for instance, can be found in many of the canned foods sold in the United States. The Environmental Working Group tested 97 canned foods and found detectable levels of BPA in more than half of them.  The highest concentrations were in canned meats, pasta and soups.  Although there is no evidence that the levels of BPA in canned food cause health effects in humans, BPA is one of many chemicals in the environment that acts like the hormone estrogen.  Because low levels of hormones can have profound effects, exposure to hormone-like chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors, is especially concerning.  Pregnant women and children may want to limit their consumption of canned foods to avoid this source of BPA exposure.

It is important to protect children.  By making better food choices we can reduce their exposure to a host of unhealthy ingredients and contaminants. It is important to remember that children are not small adults, rather, they are a developing version of an adult. Simply put, children are under construction. They are unfinished and their developing systems are quite fragile.   We know, for instance, that in children the brain continues to develop into their twenties, and this makes their brains potentially more vulnerable to toxicants. They also breathe much more rapidly, so they take in more toxins through their lungs.  For children, depending on the exposure, some of the first body systems to show negative health effects can be their neurological and respiratory systems.

Food choice presents an opportunity to make change and begin the process of providing healthy choices for your family, but especially for young children. One easy first step is to seek out your local farmers market so that you can buy fresh food that is minimally processed. For myself and my family I always buy local first and, when available, I buy certified organic. I do this because I want to reduce the unnecessary and preventable exposures to unhealthy ingredients like sugars, fats, preservatives; contaminants in canned food;  genetically modified (GM) foods; and foods containing antibiotic and pesticide residues. While farmers markets can be a safe alternative for tracking down healthier foods, shopping there can also be a fun family adventure!



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