Toxic substances abound nowadays, and the food industry is a master at hiding stuff you wouldn’t eat in the stuff you actually eat.
Here are 3 surprising sources of toxicity you might not know about
Aptly known as “The Poison of Kings” and later known as the less dramatic rat poison, this metalloid has been used to kill people and rodents alike for millennia. You might be surprised to find out that it is regularly added to the feed of chicken and turkeys, as it makes their blood vessels pinker, thus more appetizing.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen and interferes with DNA methylation and NRA transcription, causing epigenetic changes (1) Not something you want in a population of people who consumes chicken breasts by the ton!
2. Coal Tar
Ever wondered where the food coloring “red 40” and “yellow 5” came from? Now you know: coal tar. They are used to add colors to anything from candies to cheese to pickles, but they are potent neuro-toxins that attack the nervous cells and the brain, causing degeneration. They are also linked ADD and ADHD in children and cutting out sources of these chemicals is one of the first dietary intervention I advise during my Metabolic Analytics seminars (2, 3).
Tartrazine, the yellow 5 extracted from tar, is more commonly present in industrial, packaged food. And is literally everywhere. This list from Wikipedia will have you checking for a gastroscopy to see if your stomach looks like a napalm burned field.
It can be found in:
- Desserts and sweets: ice cream, ice pops and popsicles, confectionery and hard candy (such as gummy bears, Peeps marshmallow treats, etc.), cotton candy, instant puddings and gelatin (such as Jell-O), cake mixes, pastries (such as Pillsbury pastries), custard powder, marzipan, biscuits and cookies.
- Beverages: soft drinks (such as Mountain Dew), energy and sports drinks, powdered drink mixes (such as Kool-Aid), fruit cordials, and flavored/mixed alcoholic beverages.
- Snacks: flavored corn chips (such as Doritos, nachos, etc.), chewing gum, popcorn (both microwave and cinema-popped), and potato chips.
- Condiments and spreads: jam, jelly (including mint jelly), marmalade, mustard, horseradish, pickles (and other products containing pickles such as tartar sauce and dill pickle dip), and processed sauces.
- Other processed foods: cereal (such as corn flakes, muesli, etc.), instant or “cube” soups), rices (like paella, risotto, etc.), noodles (such as some varieties of Kraft Dinner) and pureed fruit.
This halogen metalloid is a close relative to iodine, chlorine and fluorine. While all the halogens except iodine are toxic, they share a closeness that makes them more dangerous, as they can replace one another on the thyroid receptor sites, causing hypothyroid issues. This is bad news since bromine is the whitening agent used in table salt and is used in most commercial baked goods as a bulking agent that also speeds cooking.
So if you want to stay healthy, eat things a caveman would have had access to. Hence, bagel are out of the equation since last time I checked, there was not bagel tree on the planet. You can never go wrong with what mother Nature provides.
1) Baccarelli, A.; Bollati, V. (2009). “Epigenetics and environmental chemicals”.Current Opinion in Pediatrics 21 (2): 243–251
2) Rowe KS, Rowe KJ (Nov 1994). “Synthetic food coloring and behavior: a dose response effect in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures study”.J Pediatr 125 (5 Pt 1): 691–698
3) Donna McCann et al. (2007). “Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial”. The Lancet 370 (9598): 1560–15