by David Greenwalt
People who routinely get their faces in front of television cameras, get their articles published in all print media, get the book deal, and have their voices heard over airwaves keep talking about the overconsumption of calories, sugar, salt. But they make four crucial mistakes when they do so.
Mistake #1 – Lumping Sugar Salt & Fat in With Over 10,000 Food Additives
There are presently over 10,000 food additives available with 43 percent of them “generally recognized as safe.” I’ll talk more about that later in this article. For now the point I want to make is that it’s foolish to focus so heavily on sugar, salt and fat without also focusing on the entire chemical load we’re subjecting our bodies to. A part of that total load comes from the 10,000 food additives “food” producers get to use to alter one or more components of the “foods” we eat.
Foolish as it may be talk of what’s causing the obesity and health epidemics is almost exclusive to sugar, salt and fat.
In this Forbes article they’re discussing the damaging effects of overeating on our brains.
“The evidence is quite convincing – eating fattening foods causes inflammatory cells to go into the hypothalamus,” explains Aronne. “This overloads the neurons and causes neurological damage.”
In this CNN article the writer is interviewing Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Michael Moss, author of “Salt Sugar Fat.”
You talk about how the industry fiddles with the physical shapes of ingredients like fat and salt so they taste better on the tongue. How are companies using this process?
In this New Scientist piece the writer is doing a review of the book called “Fat Chance” by pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig. He says …
“In Fat Chance, Lustig argues that the rise of obesity is the result of high concentrations of insulin in the blood, together with resistance to leptin – a hormone secreted by the body’s fat cells that normally signals the brain to shut down food intake. According to his hypothesis, the problem begins when dietary sugar stimulates insulin secretion, promoting storage of food energy in fat cells.”
In this article from the Harvard School of Public Health the staff writes …
“The war on obesity and other lifestyle ills has opened a new battlefront: the fight against sugar and salt.”
I could cite 100 quotes a day similar to the ones above from leading authorities in the field of obesity research and the reporters of their work. They all have a centrally-common theme. It’s the sugar, salt and fat that are doing us in.
To this issue and everyone writing about it I have this to say No, dummies, it’s not the sugar, salt and fat per se, it’s the sugar, salt and fat PLUS the entire chemical load, part of which comes from food additives.
Mistake #2 – Calling “Food-Like-Substances” Food
Stop calling everything we eat FOODS. We need FOOD to survive and thrive. We don’t need food-like substances (FLS) a.k.a. “Frankenfoods” and that’s exactly what the chemical slurries sitting on our store shelves are.
What Is Real Food?
- Single-ingredient foods (including animals) grown as natural and healthful as we know how
- Grandmother multiples (foods that contain multiple ingredients but that you would have found in your Grandmother’s kitchen 100 years ago)
When you call anything we eat or drink food you run into other problems like the researchers have been for decades trying to figure out if or how we could possibly be addicted to food. When it’s all lumped in as “food” it causes otherwise really smart people to say not-so-smart things like Keri Gans. Gans is a registered dietitian, past spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans has a private practice in New York City where she specializes in weight management. Gans writes
“…no – you cannot be addicted to food, but you can have behavioral and emotional reasons that cause you to overeat. Our body needs food for survival, which is definitely not the case for drugs and alcohol.”
Our bodies DO need FOOD for survival. So stop calling Golden Grahams food. Stop calling pizza food. Stop calling soda food. Stop calling donuts food. Stop calling ice cream food. Stop calling a Big Mac food. Those food-like-substances are NOT food.
We don’t need any of those Frankenfoods to survive. We need FOOD to survive. The solution? Redefine what you’re calling FOOD. Food is food. Anything else is a food-like-substance, a Frankenfood.
Mistake #3 – No Need To Look Here–It’s GRAS
In 1958 more than 700 food additives were granted GRAS status. GRAS stands for “Generally Recognized as Safe.” GRAS exemptions are granted for substances that are generally recognized, among experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate their safety, as having been adequately shown through scientific procedures. Today there are over 10,000 additives in use with 43% of them on the GRAS list. Holy crap!
The GRAS list includes things like carnauba wax, modified food starch, caffeine, monosodium glutamate and gum arabic.
Did you know companies don’t even have to notify the FDA when they’ve come up with a new additive? Nope, they do not. Before 1997, a food company had to petition the FDA to get a substance on the GRAS list. Now all it has to do is convene a meeting of scientists (paid by the company — talk about conflicts of interest) to sit in a room and declare a substance is GRAS.
“Rules governing the chemicals that go into a tennis racket are more stringent than (rules for) the chemicals that go into our food,” says Thomas Neltner, lead author of a study published August 7, 2013 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Okay, what if we were so stupid to believe companies whose primary aim is to make a profit, would NEVER stoop to biased data to make their products taste better or to improve shelf life or a dozen other goals does it really matter if food producers are only using teeny, tiny doses of the additives?
Mistake #4 – Thinking It Takes Big Doses To Cause Problems
Welcome to the world of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC).
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that at certain doses, can interfere with the endocrine (or hormone system) in mammals. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Any system in the body controlled by hormones, can be derailed by hormone disruptors. Specifically, endocrine disruptors may be associated with the development of learning disabilities, severe attention deficit disorder, cognitive and brain development problems; deformations of the body (including limbs); breast cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid and other cancers; sexual development problems such as feminizing of males or masculine effects on females, etc.
Hormones work at very small doses (part per billion ranges). Endocrine disruption can thereby also occur from low-dose exposure to exogenous hormones or hormonally active chemicals that can interfere with receptors for other hormonally mediated processes.
Suspected EDCs are found in insecticides, herbicides, fumigants, and fungicides that are used in agriculture as well as in the home. Other endocrine disruptors are found in industrial chemicals such as detergents, resins, plasticizers, and monomers in many plastics. Exposure to these chemicals occurs through direct contact in the workplace or at home, or through ingestion of contaminated water, food, or air. Studies have found that some of these chemicals do leach out of plastics, such as the PVC plastics used to make IV bags. When these plastics, or other materials, are burned (as well as in their production) many unwanted byproducts that are endocrine disruptors or suspected endocrine disruptors are released into the air or water.
Most EDCs are fat-soluble. This means that they do not get rapidly flushed out of the body, but rather are stored in fat. These chemicals bioaccumulate up the food chain. (An individual higher up on a food chain must consume many individuals of a lower level in order to obtain sufficient energy. In doing this, an organism not only acquires the energy it needs to live, but it also ingests and accumulates the sum of the chemicals stored in its food.) This means that very low levels of a chemical in the air, water, or soil result in higher levels in plant life, still higher levels in herbivores, and even higher levels in carnivores. An individual will accumulate more of these chemicals throughout his/her lifetime. The major routes of removing these chemicals involve transfer from mother to child, through the placenta and in breast milk.
An additive or any chemical that is considered safe within certain tolerances today may be determined years from now to be quite carcinogenic or deadly.
One example of the devastating consequences of the exposure of developing humans to endocrine disruptors is the case of the potent drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen. Prior to its ban in the early 1970’s, doctors mistakenly prescribed DES to as many as five million pregnant women to block spontaneous abortion and promote fetal growth. It was discovered after the children went through puberty that DES affected the development of the reproductive system and caused vaginal cancer. Since then, Congress has improved the evaluation and regulation process of drugs and other chemicals. The recent requirement of the establishment of an endocrine disruptor screening program is a highly significant step.
Today more men are experiencing sexual dysfunction and reproductive issues. The World Health Organization and other purely science-based organizations have no doubt that part of the problem lies in our exposure to endocrine disruptors.
The age of menstruation has been approximately 13 years for several decades, whereas 200 years ago it was around 17 years. Improved nutrition, health and better living conditions may have caused the decline of the age at menarche. Now there appears to be a new downwards trend; breast development that normally occurs about two years before menarche appears much earlier than before. EDCs are thought to be partially responsible for these new trends.
EDCs have additive effects. Safety assessments on the chemicals individually do not tell us the whole picture as we’re exposed to multiple endocrine disruptors everyday. The World Health Organizations says “Therefore it is difficult to estimate, whether current safety margins for allowed daily intakes are adequate.”
Be there no mistake, tiny fractions (i.e., parts per trillion) can be quite damaging and disrupting to our endocrine system, our health and our body fat when exposure, although small, is multiplied across many EDCs and is chronic as it is with everyday living.
Linda Birnbaum, the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) spoke to congress February 25, 2010. She concluded her excellent testimony with the following:
“In conclusion, let me stress that I believe this area of environmental health sciences to be of the utmost importance. Our endocrine systems keep our bodies in balance, maintaining homeostasis and guiding proper growth and development. With NIEHS’s leadership, we are learning more and more about how these finely tuned systems are sensitive to unanticipated effects from chemical exposures. This information is critically important for creating effective strategies to prevent disease and promote better health, as well as to ensure safe drinking water.”
It’s not the overconsumption of calories, sugar, salt and fat per se as much as it’s the total chemical-additive load from all sources. Beginning with the planting of a seed or the conception of an animal to the pretty, glitzy, enticing product on a store shelf our food and food-like supply is overloaded with chemical additives.
At some point the conversation is going to turn from calories, carbs, proteins, fats and gluten to ALL CHEMICAL ADDITIVES.
You may think you have an intolerance to gluten and so you move to packaged gluten-free products. The problem is the packaged gluten-free products are oftentimes still LOADED with harmful, chemical additives. Even the original wheat-based food you were trying to avoid was wrapped in chemical garbage. So was it the wheat to begin with? Or was it the artificial colors, preservatives, flavors and sweeteners or another chemical not mentioned? It’s so hard to say. It’s all Frankenfood. Unless you move toward real food simply switching to “gluten free” can leave you feeling just as bad and continue to feed the appetite of obesity just as voraciously.
A packaged food loaded with chemical additives is still a garbage, Frankenfood regardless of what health claim the food-producer makes or what niche they are trying to satisfy.
It’s NOT just the gluten. It’s NOT just the calorie overload. It’s NOT just the sugar. It’s NOT just the wrong fats. It’s NOT just the salt. It’s all of that plus the totality of the load of chemicals you ingest from every food and drink.
Let me be clear. Sure we over consume calories. Sure we eat too much sugar. Sure we eat too much of the wrong fat. Sure we consume too much sodium. But the conversation has GOT to move beyond these elements and toward the bigger picture. Our health, our weight and all things good and bad that happen within our bodies are predicated not solely on the calorie, sugar, salt and fat loads but instead on the totality of the chemical load from food and other environmental and product-based sources.
If you want to do yourself the best good you’ll reduce the total chemical load on your body by doing the following:
- Educate yourself about endocrine disruptors, and educate your family and friends.
- Eat real, organic food.
- Choose meat and poultry that is grass-fed, pastured, antibiotic and hormone free.
- Choose wild-caught fish over farm-raised.
- Avoid using pesticides in your home or yard, or on your pet — use baits or traps instead, keeping your home especially clean to prevent ant or roach infestations.
- Find out if pesticides are used in your child’s school or day care center and campaign for non-toxic alternatives.
- Limit fatty foods such as cheese and meat–the fat is where many toxins are stored in an animal.
- Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap.
- Use glass or ceramics to store food
- Do not give young children soft plastic teethers or toys, since these leach potential endocrine disrupting chemicals.
- Support efforts to get strong government regulation of and increased research on endocrine disrupting chemicals.
- Last but not least? Stop saying our obesity crisis is purely about sugar, salt and fat!
There’s also a really good list at HormoneSoup.com of things to do to reduce overall exposure to chemicals from many sources.
This area of study is literally volumes of books worth of material. I have only scratched the surface here but hope I can influence dialogue among those who spread the word to focus on the broader picture instead of foolishly limiting the scope of obesity causes to sugar, salt and fat.
Common chemicals that disrupt human hormones could be costing more than $150 billion a year in damage to human health in Europe, a series of studies claims.
The team’s conclusions:
- Male reproductive disorders cost $4 billion per year
- Premature deaths, including through cardiovascular disease, cost $6 billion per year
- Obesity and diabetes cost $15 billion per year
- Neurological impact, including reduced intelligence, cost $132 billion per year
Dr Leonardo Trasande, a paediatrician at the New York University school of medicine, told the BBC: “These results suggest that regulating endocrine disrupting chemicals could produce substantial economic benefit that would be less than the cost of implementing safer alternatives and produce net economic benefits.”
The studies looked at less than 5% of suspected EDCs and did not look at conditions such as cancer and female reproductive diseases. Hence the scientific team argue that these are conservative estimates.