What junk food and fast food contain toxic chemicals?

Are there toxins in the junk food we love to eat?  Experts say it's important to read Nutrition Facts labels and understand the ingredients listed.  (Photo: Getty Creative)

Are there toxins in the junk food we love to eat? Experts say it’s important to read Nutrition Facts labels and understand the ingredients listed. (Photo: Getty Creative)

Junk food and fast food are appetizing and delicious, but it’s no wonder these meals and snacks aren’t the first things that come to mind when considering which foods should be part of your next healthy meal. Link reports of toxins found in the foods we love to eat while traveling, and the decision becomes more complicated.

But are foods like chicken nuggets, candy bars, and cheese pizza just not the most nutrient-dense options, or do they pose a risk to human health when consumed?

Toxins in our treats?

Last month, a California lawsuit claimed that the popular Skittles fruit-flavored candies are “unfit for human consumption” due to titanium dioxide, a chemical used to help the candies secure and maintain their color. tone. DJ Mazzoni, a New York-based registered dietitian and medical reviewer for Illuminate Labs, says the demand isn’t surprising.

Mazzoni says that when looking at ingredient labels, consumers in the US should be on the lookout for ingredients and additives that are banned in other countries, specifically titanium dioxide. “It’s banned as a food additive in the European Union, which has better consumer protections than the US,” she says. “This ingredient can be toxic to humans and provides no nutritional benefit, so I would recommend avoiding all processed foods that contain titanium dioxide.”

Of course, titanium dioxide isn’t the only potentially harmful additive in junk food. And this lawsuit is not the first time food in the US has been found to be potentially dangerous to human health. documentaries like Super Size Me, for example, it had consumers reassessing their love of McDonald’s chicken nuggets, along with the entire fast food industry, since 2004.

The Phthalate Problem

In 2021, George Washington University researchers, including environmental health scientist Lariah Edwards, conducted a study on potentially harmful industrial chemicals detected in fast foods in the US. The result? The study found that popular fast-food items from beloved chains contain phthalates, a group of chemicals used to soften plastics, which are known to disrupt the endocrine system.

“Phthalates are a class of chemicals widely used in plastic materials such as food packaging and food processing equipment,” Edwards tells Yahoo Life. “Replacement plasticizers, also known as ‘phthalate-free plasticizers,’ are chemicals instead of phthalates, as the use of some phthalates has been banned.

“The phthalates we detect are of concern because some, such as DEHP and DnBP, have been consistently linked to reproductive, developmental and endocrine health problems in animal and human studies,” it adds.

According to Edwards, unlike phthalates, the studied replacement plasticizers (DEHT, DEHA and DINCH) are less well known. Because the available scientific studies provide limited information on toxicity and health effects in humans, the increased use of these chemicals and their effects on human health are poorly understood. Still, she thinks the possible long-term effects are very concerning.

“Diet is the main way people are exposed to phthalates,” says Edwards. “And certain racial and ethnic groups in the US, such as non-Hispanic blacks, are more likely to eat fast food than others due to many factors, including decades of racial residential segregation.”

“This can lead to inequities in exposure,” he continues, “so if other chemicals are linked to fast food consumption, there is a possibility that certain racial groups are also highly exposed to them.”

Lack of knowledge about the food we eat.

How much does the average consumer really know about what they are eating on a daily basis? Anthony Zirfas lives in Orlando, Fla., and says that sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between what’s not good for you and what’s actually bad for your overall health.

“Every year there is a new study on certain products that are potentially linked to cancer or some other disease,” he says. “The next year, it changes. We are in the age of information and disinformation. Big corporations pay to pass regulations and occasionally create regulations that support their own agenda. It’s hard to know what’s real, what’s true and what really has A great impact”. effect on you from a health perspective.

Andrew Livesay is the voice behind Ouch My Body, a Chicago-based physical and mental health blog that aims to inform the public about health-conscious improvements they can make in their lives, specifically by providing advice on food choices. healthy. Livesay says that many popular junk foods contain harmful chemicals and dyes that can be dangerous.

“Some of these chemicals that we love include artificial flavors and colors, preservatives and synthetic sweeteners,” he says. “These chemicals can cause a variety of health problems, including cancer, birth defects and neurological damage.”

What about sugars and sweeteners?

Dr. David Culpepper, clinical director of Kentucky-based LifeMD, has been practicing general internal medicine for more than 30 years. Culpepper agrees that sugars are a real problem in most junk foods.

“This includes sucrose, fructose, and high-fructose corn syrup,” says Culpepper. “These additives are especially dangerous because not everyone recognizes that the names correspond to simple sugars. Too much simple sugar, as opposed to complex carbohydrates like whole grains, is associated with a number of diseases, including obesity, diabetes and an increased risk of cancer.

Additives… and packaging… matter

Dr. Naheed Ali, a Miami, Fla., physician and USA RX contributor, warns that in addition to additives in food, packaging can be part of the problem. “Many processed and packaged foods include dangerous chemicals and dyes,” says Ali, “for example, candy wrappers, drink bottles, and even canned ravioli can contain bisphenol A (BPA), a dangerous plastic toxin. BPA ‘leaks’ into the body and affects hormone receptors, which can cause brain and reproductive problems.”

With so many different additives and chemicals in processed foods today, it’s understandable that consumers want to avoid most of them at all costs. Maura Caruth, who lives in Lincoln Park, NJ, says she avoids most processed foods. “I really prioritize what I put in my body,” she shares. “Sometimes when I go out to eat or spend time with my family and friends, I relax, but on a day-to-day basis at home, I avoid it all. I think it makes a big difference in the long and short term.” – Health.”

Can you offset the effects of junk food?

At a time when it seems impossible to avoid junk food and fast food, is there anything you can do to lessen the impact of a day of fast food and junk food runs?

“Eating foods rich in antioxidants may help ameliorate some of the harmful inflammatory effects of processed foods,” says Mazzoni. “Eating a salad after eating a fast food pizza is much healthier than eating a pizza on its own.” Mazzoni adds that what we drink can also be beneficial, “drinking enough water is especially important when consuming processed foods because these foods tend to be high in sodium.”

According to Edwards, another great way to reduce your risk is to avoid selecting fast and junk food meals that contain meat. “In general, eating fewer fast foods is also a good way to reduce exposure,” she says. “However, this is not a feasible option for everyone, as fast foods are an inexpensive and convenient way to put food on the table.”

“For people who want to reduce their exposure to phthalates and replacement plasticizers in fast food,” he continues, “based on our results, choosing meatless meals is a good way to reduce exposure to these chemicals.”

Livesay adds that no matter what you eat, it’s important to make sure your body’s nutritional needs are being met.

“If you must eat junk food, I would recommend getting all the important vitamins your body needs through over-the-counter pills,” says Livesay. “Although there is no definitive answer, most experts recommend limiting junk food to occasional pleasures only: this means eating fast food or processed foods only occasionally and opting for healthier options most of the time. It’s important to be mindful of what you’re eating and choose healthier options whenever possible.”

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