May 1, 2008

More Evidence Scary Chemicals are In our Bodies

Science Daily today reported on a recent study that found both Teflon and Scotchgard in the milk of nursing mothers. The study turned out to have been done by a wonderful woman scientist I have the privilege of knowing personally, but that wasn't why I clicked through on the headline. It looked like yet another study, like those on plastics and pesticides, which point to hidden causes of the so-called "diabetes epidemic."

Suspected Carcinogenic Chemicals Used To Make Teflon, Scotchgard, Found In Human Milk

If this doesn't scare you, you don't understand much about physiology.

It scares me plenty, not just because these are carcinogens, but because this is yet more proof of the extent to which bizarre, not-found-in-nature, chemicals that are added to food packaging get into our bodies where no one really has much idea of what they do.

The other scary thing about this particular bunch of chemicals is that they don't break down once they are in the body. So whatever the "safe" level might be over time, you are getting more and more of them over time and they are probably being deposited in random places throughout your organs.

These ubiquitous chemicals like bisphenol-A and pesticides may also raise the incidence of diabetes and increase insulin resistance. Things that cause cancer often do.

Many people attribute the diabetes "epidemic" to the huge surge in obesity. There is no doubt that the incidence of obesity has greatly increased, but what people don't understand is that obesity is often the result of genetic damage caused by environmental toxins. In fact, lab scientists usually interpret obesity in animals as a sign that they have experienced genetic damage. A healthy animal won't overeat, but those with genetic damage do.

Note that the article mentions that "Food sources of PFCs [Perfluorinated compounds] include grease-resistant packaging such as microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, as well as fish and other animals that contain these chemicals. Exposure can also come from personal care products including dental floss and shampoo." And of course, your nonstick cookware is coated with Teflon and it leaches into food, especially when you heat it a bit too much.


Anne said...

There was an interesting article in National Geographic. The author was tested for 320 chemicals he might have picked up from food, drink, the air he breathes, and the products that touch his skin. You can read the artical online.


The Old Man and His Dog said...

you scare the hell out of me.
Btw,love your book so far. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Just more things for us to stress over. You may be able to limit your exposure but it is basically impossible to eliminate these items from our daily living.

Scott S said...

I cannot help but wonder whether we've really seen "progress" in healthcare. At one time, food was largely packaged in glass or maybe aluminum, today, plastic is pervasive, then we act surprised when we discover the adverse health effects. While somethings are progress, the disposable society we now reside in isn't!

Anonymous said...

When I read this, the one thought that popped up in my mind was the difference between me and my brother. We've lived in the same households for our entire lives (over two decades,) went to the same schools, etc. I assume we've been exposed to the same chemicals, toxins, water, food (at least when we were growing up,) food packaging, etc. And yet I'm dramatically heavier than he is. I'm 5'11", 245 pounds, and he's approximately 5'9" and 165 pounds. I'm fat and he's skinny. Same environment, same exposure, similar genetics, far different results.

There is one difference between us though. I eat a lot of food... a whole lot of food. :-)

Jenny said...

Unless your brother is your identical twin, you have very different genes. For example, my mom had an 83 fasting blood sugar at 92, but my father's mother gave him a diabetes gene that was passed to me. My brother might have gotten my mom's copy of the gene. My son got his dad's copy of that gene, but my daughter got mine. So my daughter has abnormally high blood sugars. My son can eat anything and end up in the low 90s 1 hour later.

It's that way with every gene in your body, and there are combinations of genes that interact which also vary from child to child in a family.

That is why the identical twin study showing the high concordance for Type 2 diabetes among indentical twins and low concordance for fraternal twins (who don't have identical genes) are so informative.

And differences in hunger levels, and hence how much you eat, may very well stem from genetic differences.

Anonymous said...

Interesting info. So that means that genes are more important than both diet and chemicals. After all, my brother and I had the same upbringing, and were exposed to similar foods and chemicals, but we've ended up with vastly different body weights. If you're correct, then the implication is that we should focus far less on diet and chemicals and far more on gene therapy. Fascinating stuff.

Jenny said...

Gene therapy is still mostly science fiction. What we should be concentrating on is:

1. Getting dangerous chemicals out of our environment.

2. Understanding that people have different genetic flaws causing weight and blood sugar problems so what works for one might not work for the other, rather than the "one size fits all" treatment most doctors currently recommend.

For example, the drug Byetta gives dramatic results for people with one specific set of functional breakdowns in their blood sugar system. For everyone else, it is mostly a waste of money. Understanding that can help you decide if it is a drug worth testing for your own needs.

Anonymous said...

Then we should "focus" on it until it's no longer science fiction. Using public funds for research would be a good start.

1. But if genes determine whether those chemicals are "dangerous" or not, then it makes more sense to focus on the genes. Indeed, my brother has a perfectly healthy body weight despite being exposed to the same foods, chemicals, packaging, and plastics as I have.

2. Yes, we should try to understand those "different genetic flaws" so that people won't be so adversely impacted by foods and chemicals, like I have.

Sounds good to me! :-)