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Kids may risk cancer from toxins in food

UC DAVIS (US) — All 364 children in a recent study of food-borne toxin exposure exceeded cancer benchmarks for arsenic, dieldrin, DDE, and dioxins.

As reported in the journal Environmental Health, researchers measured food-borne toxin exposure in children and adults by pinpointing foods with high levels of toxic compounds and determining how much of these foods were consumed.

The researchers found that family members in the study, and preschool children in particular, are at high risk for exposure to arsenic, dieldrin, DDE (a DDT metabolite), dioxins, and acrylamide. These compounds have been linked to cancer, developmental disabilities, birth defects, and other conditions. However, the study also points to dietary modifications that could mitigate risk.

“Contaminants get into our food in a variety of ways,” says study principal investigator Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor and chief of the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health at University of California, Davis.

“They can be chemicals that have nothing to do with the food or byproducts from processing. We wanted to understand the dietary pathway pesticides, metals, and other toxins take to get into the body.”

Researchers assessed risk by comparing toxin consumption to established benchmarks for cancer risk and non-cancer health risks. The 364 children in the study were 207 preschool children between two and seven and 157 school-age children between five and seven.

More than 95 percent of preschool children exceeded non-cancer risk levels for acrylamide, a cooking byproduct often found in processed foods like potato and tortilla chips. Pesticide exposure was particularly high in tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, dairy, pears, green beans, and celery.

“We focused on children because early exposure can have long-term effects on disease outcomes,” says Rainbow Vogt, lead author of the study. “Currently, the US Environmental Protection Agency only measures risk based on exposures of individual contaminants. We wanted to understand the cumulative risk from dietary contaminants. The results of this study demonstrate a need to prevent exposure to multiple toxins in young children to lower their cancer risk.”

The researchers used data from the 2007 Study of Use of Products and Exposure-Related Behavior (SUPERB), which surveyed households in California with children between two and five to determine how their diets, and other factors, contribute to toxic exposure.

Specifically, SUPERB homed in on 44 foods known to have high concentrations of toxic compounds: metals, arsenic, lead, and mercury; pesticides chlorpyrifos, permethrin, and endosulfan; persistent organic pollutants dioxin, DDT, dieldrin, and chlordane; and the food processing byproduct acrylamide. Toxin levels in specific foods were determined through the Total Diet Study and other databases.

Perhaps most disturbing, preschool-age children had higher exposure to more than half the toxic compounds being measured. Even relatively low exposures can greatly increase the risk of cancer or neurological impairment.

“We need to be especially careful about children, because they tend to be more vulnerable to many of these chemicals and their effects on the developing brain,” says Hertz-Picciotto.

Variety helps

Though these results are cause for concern, the study also outlines strategies to lower family exposure. For example, organic produce has lower pesticide levels. In addition, toxin types vary in different foods. Certain pesticides may be found in lettuce and broccoli, while others affect peaches and apples.

“Varying our diet and our children’s diet could help reduce exposure,” says Hertz-Picciotto. “Because different foods are treated differently at the source, dietary variation can help protect us from accumulating too much of any one toxin.”

Families also can reduce their consumption of animal meat and fats, which may contain high levels of DDE and other persistent organic pollutants, and switch to organic milk. While mercury is most often found in fish, accumulation varies greatly by species. Smaller fish, lower on the food chain, generally have lower mercury levels. In addition, acrilomides are relatively easy to remove from the diet.

“Acrilomides come from chips and other processed grains, says co-author Deborah Bennett, associate professor of environmental and occupational health. “Even if we set aside the potential toxins in these foods, we probably shouldn’t be eating large amounts of them anyway. However, we should be eating fruits, vegetables, and fish, which are generally healthy foods. We just need to be more careful in how we approach them.”

The study also highlights a number of policy issues, such as how we grow our food and the approval process for potentially toxic compounds. Though the pesticide DDT was banned 40 years ago, the study showed significant risk of DDE exposure.

“Given the significant exposure to legacy pollutants, society should be concerned about the persistence of compounds we are currently introducing into the environment,” says Bennett. “If we later discover a chemical has significant health risks, it will be decades before it’s completely removed from the ecosystem.”

While the study has profound implications for dietary habits, more work needs to be done to quantify risk. Specifically, researchers need to determine how these food-borne toxins interact collectively in the body.

A Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency funded the study, which includes additional authors from UC Davis and UCLA.

Source: UC Davis

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  1. Nalliah Thayabharan

    Cancer is less a disease than a condition existing in the whole human body. Cancer would be almost unheard of if no devitalized food or meats were eaten since cancer cannot exist where there is a pure bloodstream. Avoid meat in all forms including dairy. Meat is a dead matter, low in minerals, and produces uric acid in excess which is a waste product. The incidence of cancer is in direct proportion to the amount of meat and meat products in the diet. Regular meat eaters (especially red meat) have a higher probability of getting cancers, such as colon cancer and prostate cancer. Digestion of meat uses trypsin and chymotrypsin, which are two critical enzymes in the human body to allow the immune system to kill cancer cells. Vegetable proteins do not use up those enzymes. Cancer patient should not eat anything that is not building the immunity system or killing cancer cells. Meat does not contribute to curing the cancer, so meat is should be avoided by cancer patients. There are plenty of foods that help cure cancer, so there is no need to eat meat. Pancreatin enzymes can be destroyed by contact with acids. Diet comprised mostly of processed refined foods and meats may result in lower pH that depletes these enzymes in the human body. Cancer cells metabolize foods very inefficiently and produce acidic wastes. This extra acidity can further lower the pH levels in an already acidic environment for pancreatin enzymes. The lower pH level also enables the cancer to spread by using acid dissolved normal cells as its food source. This strongly acidic lower pH environment, especially local to the cancer is the primary reason that cancer does not normally heal on its own. The colon should be relatively clear during a cancer treatment so that the body can absorb as many nutrients as possible. All foods like meat which ferment in the bowel should be avoided to prevent the accumulation of fecal matter in the colon. The hormones in meat like artificial sex hormone widely used in cattle – Diethylstilbestrol cause cancer of the uterus, breast and other reproductive organs. Dangerous residues of stilbestrol are in 85% of all the meat sold in North America. This is the main reason why fifteen countries around the world now refuse to import meat produced in the US; and twenty one countries have a total ban on the use of stilbestrol in food production or processing. When chemical preservatives and color enhancers are ingested, they cause the body to produce nitrosamines which cause cancer of the liver, stomach, brain, bladder, kidneys and several other organs. Nitrates and nitrites are heavily added to meat during processing. Runoff of nitrates and nitrites from fields sprayed with chemical fertilizers get into drinking water and cause cancer. can lead to cancer. If the digestive system is weak, digestion of meat could produce toxins in blood.

    Though devitalized, processed, and sugared food can also cause cancer even in vegetarians. People, communities and groups who consume less meat have less cancer. Seventh-day Adventists, who eat little or no meat, suffer far less from cancer than the average meat-eating American. High protein diet of Americans is linked to the high incidence of cancer in the US. Anyone who does not eat meat, eats only good food, and does all he can to protect his liver, may never get cancer.
    The second solution is to introduce the appropriate calciums into the body since the body uses calcium as the chief alkalinizer of all body fluids including the intra-cellular fluids. Cancers and tumors can only exist in a predominantly lower pH (acidic) environment caused by a diet rich in dairy foods, meats, grain products, sweets and strong condiments such as black pepper. This is always accompanied by an acute lack of living fruits and vegetables. High acidity destroys bones, because the body has to use alkalizing minerals from bones to keep the blood pH from dropping into the acid range.
    Lactobacillus acidophilus is a friendly organism which helps the body fight disease and restores health. Acidophilus kills the harmful bacteria strain of E. coli in the intestinal tract. Acidophilus breaks milk sugar down into lactic acid. Bacteria which produce putrefaction and gas in the intestines cannot live in lactic acid. Acidophilus also has the unique ability to help the body synthesize, or manufacture all of the ‘B’ vitamins in the system. This makes it especially valuable since there is literally a host of agents which destroy B vitamins. A few are antibiotics, birth control pills, eating sugar and refined foods and drinking coffee. A diet high in red meat will destroy the beneficial bacteria, due to the concentration of antibiotics and steroids given to the animals before they are slaughtered.
    Cancer is fundamentally involved with mal-utilization of protein. Oncologists generally agree that the actual cause of death in cancer patients is cachexia, a condition of severe weight loss and wasting associated with protein mal-absorption. In fact cancer cells are able to grow by making the amino acids of protein available for their growth at the expense of the body as a whole. Meat, especially red meat, being the most readily assimilable protein, becomes a banquet for cancer cells. Emphasizing the use of plant sources of vegetable protein such as legumes and beans that contain cancer-fighting compounds should be a prominent part of an anti-cancer diet.
    The most damaging evidence that meat is a major cause of cancer are studies of people who went into spontaneous remission solely because of a change in their diet. These people almost universally went from a cooked food, meat-centered diet and gave up their meat, their dairy products and their refined sugar and switched to a raw food vegetarian diet, and by simply changing diets their bodies were able to cure their cancer.

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