It’s Not Your Fault: Corporate Food Is Slowly Stealing Your Health
By Christopher Walker
Most adults know that a healthy lifestyle is important. Many articles, talk shows and fictional narratives have provided scathing commentary on the state of Western health. Consequently, many people know all about statistics regarding obesity in America and the importance of eating healthier. At every turn, our attention is brought back to health, or society’s perception of it — it’s a standard bolstered by checkout aisle magazines and movies. Whether you’re reminded about health by New Years’ resolutions or the calorie count on a can of soda, it can seem like the proverbial deck is stacked against you.
Many believe that this age of convenience is slowly killing us. Our schedules are packed with the usual demands of family, career and personal life. This can drive us toward less-than-healthy options — forgoing exercise, proper hydration, natural supplements, or choosing fast food over fruits and vegetables. However, even when we make the healthy choice, hidden dangers lurk in the history of the food we eat.
Take a classic meal, for example: grilled chicken, paired with a salad and a glass of milk. This should be healthy. Lean meat that is prepared in a way that doesn’t involve frying in fat. Salad that encompasses a bright variety of vegetables. Milk that provides all the nutrients dairy can offer. However, when we trace the individual ingredients of this meal, all is not as it seems.
At first glance, this meal seems healthier than fast food options — but is it really?
How Corporate Food Is Endangering Human Health
Ignorance and complacency are two primary factors that enable heath issues. Unfortunately, health is sometimes not prioritized until a catastrophic event finally occurs — perhaps a stroke, or a tumor, or cardiac arrest. These issues usually don’t develop overnight. They develop silently and insidiously, until the body finally throws up warning flags that we consciously recognize. If we could stop the proverbial snowball from gaining speed and momentum, before major health issues crop up, we would. However, prevention can only be accomplished by the realization of what goes onto our plates daily. Chicken purchased from the supermarket is rarely just a piece of chicken. It has an entire history of antibiotics, barely-prevented diseases and a chemical trail that would make anyone lose their appetite. A good example of this “food history” is present within the dairy industry.
Danger Lurking in Your Milk
Horrific documentaries about the condition of the meat and dairy industries are common. Animals, crammed together in inhuman and unsanitary conditions, is enough to turn anyone’s stomach. However, the impact on human health is even worse.
Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1)
Milk is supposed to be the magic tool that helps children grow up big and strong. That piece of popular wisdom doesn’t take IGF-1 into account. Insulin-like growth factor-1 is a significant part of the debate about how cows are treated, and the impact on human health. The cocktail of growth hormones, steroids and phytoestrogens is complicated, overwhelming and dangerous. Research conducted by the International Journal of Health Service states the following:
“Levels of IGF-1 are substantially elevated and more bioactive in the milk of cows hyperstimulated with the biosynthetic bovine growth hormones rBGH, and are further increased by pasteurization1.”
These elevated levels of IGF-1 have been utilized in multiple studies. IGF-1 has promoted growth in lab rats, which has presented concerns regarding risks for gastrointestinal and breast cancer. Since IGF-1 is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, risks for developing that type of cancer is even higher. Researchers1 are also concerned about how easily IGF-1 was absorbed by lab rats. If absorption levels were that high for rats, they are concerned that it will be even higher for infants.
Another issue is estrogen hormones, which are passed on to the consumer through any animal products that they ingest. There is a frightening list of health risks that can occur when estrogen levels are too high. Estradiol, the strongest form of estrogen, is a steroid. Naturally, it is produced by the ovaries. When this steroid is passed on through consumption, it can result in “endometriosis, fibroids, and cancers that occur in females, particularly endometrial cancer2.” The female body is naturally programmed to deal with estrogen fluctuations, and make the most of the hormone, especially as a female transitions into puberty. However, artificially introducing this hormone in excess amounts can result in issues such as premature PMS and premature breast development, which is a symptom of artificially rushed puberty.
Conventional Versus Organic Dairy Products
For some, it may initially seem difficult to brainstorm alternative options to conventional dairy products. However, there are huge differences between organic and conventional products, especially when nutritional benefits and impact on human health are compared.
Antibiotics in Dairy
One issue with conventional dairy products is connected to a problem that has dominated media headlines in recent years: Are prescription drugs overprescribed? The conclusive answer is yes. However, the problem spreads beyond drug addiction. When drugs are overprescribed, whether they are consumed or thrown away before the full regimen of antibiotics is complete, bacteria are overly exposed to these antibiotics. This initially slows bacterial reproduction and causes lower population numbers.
However, this eventually backfires. Bacteria can adapt and evolve over time, which is necessary when it comes to survival and reproduction. Eventually, antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains develop. Scientists scramble to come up with a way to eliminate them, and the vicious cycle continues. This is the case with antimicrobials in animal feed. A review conducted by a veterinary research journal3 presents the following evidence:
“The review clearly demonstrates that there is compelling scientific evidence available to support each step in the causal pathway, from antimicrobial use on farms to a public health burden caused by infections with resistant pathogens.”
This cycle will continue as long as antimicrobial drugs are overused, and this disaster is passed on to the public through all animal products. The issue isn’t only present in the meat we eat and the milk we drink, but in all animal products — and is especially dense in an animal’s fat, which has a wide variety of uses.
Dairy and Diabetes
Other researchers have expanded their studies on how cow’s milk can negatively impact infants. One study compared breastfed infants, to those who consumed cow’s milk. The infants participating in this study were already at genetic risk for Type 1 diabetes. The study4 eventually concluded that early exposure to cow’s milk could induce insulin immunity.
Clinically-Proven Concerns With Animal Feed
The overarching issue that connects milk and meat is animal feed. Overusing antimicrobials in feed has led to the development of resistant salmonella, bacteria and other pathogens.
Salmonella is usually associated with “meat, poultry, eggs, milk, seafood, and fresh produce. Salmonella can cause a number of different disease syndromes including gastroenteritis, bacteremia, and typhoid fever5.” Usually, most people can allow the disease to run its course because it is typically manifested in the form of gastroenteritis: “abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache5.” However, in severe cases, it’s necessary to treat it differently, with antimicrobial therapy. While this is a solution that works, it’s unfortunately limited by the development of resistant salmonella. If this continues drastically, then it will be difficult to counteract resistant salmonella as it continues to develop, due to an overuse of antimicrobials in animal feed and in other situations.
The Health Concerns With Corporate Beef, Pork and Chicken
The issues present in animal feed are passed on to consumers in the form of meat, which makes up a large portion of the American diet. However, what goes into that meat may not prove to be so appetizing. Studies6 have shown that over 200 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to pigs in the U.S. annually. This doesn’t account for antibiotics that are fed to farmed fish, beef, or chicken—all of which take up a large percentage of the American plate.
Over 200 pounds of antibiotics are fed to pigs in the U.S. annually.
As stakes rise, nations are deciding what foods, medicines and genetically modified products will be allowed within their borders. It is quite telling that Europe resists importation of U.S. cows due to the antibiotics, steroids and drugs fed to these animals and passed on to consumers. This is largely due to humans’ overall health adversely reacting to hormone treated meat.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
A significant amount of research has established links between poultry and polycystic ovary syndrome. In one study7, four groups of female lab rats were examined. “Group I was control rats fed on standard chow, group II treated with commercial chicken feed, group III rats fed with conventional chicken meat and group IV with organic chicken meat for a period of 6 weeks.” After the study concluded, two groups were linked to development of polycystic ovary syndrome — the group that survived on commercial chicken feed, and the one that lived on commercial chicken meat.
There’s Something Fishy About Farmed Fish
There are two categories of fish: those caught in the wild, and those farm-raised for the purpose of human consumption. There are many resources available that discuss which options are best for conscious consumers.
One such resource is provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch8. Examples of best choices include: farmed and Canadian oysters, Pacific cod, clams, cockles, and mussels, farmed abalone, and so forth. Distinctions are made based on where the fish comes from, and whether it is farmed or in the wild. For instance, salmon is recommended on the best choices list, but only if it comes from New Zealand. If it comes from the Canadian Atlantic, Chile, Norway or Scotland, it is to be avoided.
Mercury and the Environment
The avoid list says: “take a pass on these for now: they’re overfished, lack strong management or are caught or armed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment8.” One reason why many larger fish are on the “do not avoid” list is due to the bioaccumulation of mercury. Large, predatory fish consume multiple smaller fish. Then, all the mercury present in the smaller fish accumulates in the larger fish, and makes it more dangerous to eat, according to the Scientific American9.
This is telling, especially when an article by the Los Angeles Times10 that discusses the process behind farmed fish. One mention in the article is that the healthy color typically associated with good salmon is produced synthetically. This is done in order to appeal to consumers, who wouldn’t be visually attracted to salmon that is another color. Additionally, farmed fish are a blight on the environment. An initial idea, that farmed fish would help prevent overfishing, isn’t true in the case of salmon. This is because salmon are carnivores, and a variety of wild fish must be caught to keep them fed.
Franken-Fish Create Resistant Bacterias
Another issue ties back to the development of resistant bacteria. Due to the stunning variety and amount of drugs used in order to keep fish from dying, or to keep bacteria off them, or to make them survive until it’s time for them to become fish fillets in a supermarket, they are being overused. This causes aquatic antibiotic-resistant bacteria to develop10.
Cancer-Causing Polychlorinated Biphenyls
Of course, all these issues are passed along in the form of potential health issues to the consumer. One issue is in the form of PCBS. An article published by the Environmental Working Group talks about 10 salmon purchased at grocery stores in three major cities in the U.S. — Portland, San Francisco and Washington DC. Seven of these salmon “were contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls at levels that raise health concerns … PCBS are persistent, cancer-causing chemicals that were banned in the United States in 1976 and are among the ‘dirty dozen’ toxic chemicals slated for global phase-out11.” These PCB levels have largely been tied back to what fish are fed.
Farm Salmon Spread Viruses in the Wild
However, farmed fish are not the only problem. Viruses that were previously present in farmed fish are now present in wild fish, too. This also presents an issue because different breeds of salmon react to viruses differently. In this particular article, a virus that had affected Atlantic farmed salmon was now affecting Chinook salmon as well. This virus can also cause the development of jaundice and/or anemia12.
Being Suspicious of Soy
Estrogen, an important hormone for females, is dangerous in large doses. This is especially true when it comes to soy phytoestrogens that are present in animal feed. Many studies involving lab animals have backed up the dangers of high phytoestrogen levels. In one study, for instance, animals fed a phytoestrogen-rich diet for five weeks showed a reduction in plasma testosterone and high plasma isoflavone levels. This was shown to cause big changes to body and prostate weight, and “provide insights into the protective effects these estrogen mimics exert in male reproductive disorders such as benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer20.”
Why Genetically Modified Soy Is Unhealthy
An article published by the Huffington Post21 also provides insight into how soy impacts lab animals. Surprisingly, the effects were not all apparent in the first generation of hamsters that consumed genetically modified soy. GM soy is grown in 91% of soybean fields in the United States, so it’s a good chance that’s what animals are being fed.
“By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. They also suffered slower growth, and a high mortality rate among the pups. And if this isn’t shocking enough, some in the third generation even had hair growing inside their mouths, [which is] a phenomenon rarely seen.”
This type of impact on human health is shocking, especially when taking into account how much soy we truly consume each day since it is being fed to animals.
Corporate Food Uses Pesticides and Ruins the Soil
The history of pesticides is based on need. An increased amount of food was necessary in order to support allies and troops overseas during the world wars. Particularly after the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years ravaged the country, farmers being able to profit from their labor again was important. Scientific strides being made meant that farmers could make sure that bugs and other pests couldn’t make off with their hard-earned crop. It was also important to keep lice away — many soldiers, cramped in close, unhygienic quarters— were sprayed with pesticides in order to keep away pests that would otherwise impact their health.
However, after decades of using pesticides, they have come to impact human health, sustainable development and global food security. With the impact of pesticides, and soil erosion and degradation, our food security is indeed endangered.
Documented Health Risks of Pesticides
Many people are understandably concerned about how pesticides can impact health. Children, especially, are exposed to pesticides at every turn of their development. Especially with a surge of heartbreaking childhood diseases such as leukemia, experts are beginning to conduct comprehensive studies and reviews of the evidences. In a particular study published by Cancer Causes and Control17, it was particularly interested in how farm workers’ exposure to pesticides affected their children. While the link between a child’s father being exposed to pesticides and childhood leukemia was weak, the link between a child’s mother being exposed to pesticides and increased risk of childhood leukemia was established.
Another study discussed links between pesticide exposure during pregnancy and childhood brain cancer. Unlike the leukemia study, whether the father was exposed might be even more important than the mother, especially during early stages of pregnancy. In this study18 as well, childhood brain cancer was firmly linked to whether the mother was exposed to pesticides during pregnancy.
Over-Cultivation and Soil Erosion
Soil erosion occurs naturally — through water or wind. However, it also occurs through human interference like tilling, for example. Erosion is an issue because it impacts the soil structure and productivity when it comes to growing plants. If there is an issue with growing plants, there is no ground cover. This exposes the soil to future dramatic erosion, especially in the case of landslides, with no roots to anchor the soil or protect it from direct impact with water and high amounts of rainfall13.
Soil degradation is a more widespread issue than that of erosion. It is labeled as the “physical, chemical, and biological decline in soil quality14.” This is connected to soil acidity and alkalinity, soil contamination and reduced organic matter in the soil. This can be caused by soil being overused, but it can also be caused by pesticides being consistently sprayed and overused.
Nitrogen fertilizers are a commonly used pesticide, and they contribute to soil acidification and reduced soil organic matter. Specifically, nitrogen fertilizers have been linked to specific impacts on lettuce. The main purpose of utilizing nitrogen fertilizer is to increase soil health and crop yield15. According to many scientific studies and widely published papers, that is exactly what it does. That is why nitrogen fertilizer continues to be widely used, especially in the “bread basket” region of the United States.
However, those studies have fallen short, largely because they tend to focus on short-term results and economic gain. Studies that shifted focus to emphasize long-term results, revealed just how damaging the use of nitrogen fertilizers truly is. Another study on long-term soil acidification, conducted in Wisconsin, was linked to the usage of nitrogen fertilizers. Percentages in the teens were recorded, as far as long-term acidification increase16.
How to Take Back Your Health From Corporate Food
Even though it feels like the cards may be stacked against us, there are better options. Even though avoiding all pesticides, soy, and chemicals may be impossible — and antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria and pathogens will affect all of us — you can create the greatest positive impact for yourself and your family by altering what you eat. You can start by avoiding pesticides and chemicals. There are lists available online of what fruits and vegetables are exposed to the largest number of pesticides — referred to as the “dirty dozen” — but you can go farther than that by purchasing organic fruits and vegetables. Slowly revolutionizing your lifestyle takes time, but anyone can start today. Take stock of what you actually do eat. Are most of your meals home-cooked? Do you prefer takeout? How often do you hit that daily servings goal for fruits and vegetables? If you’re consciously aware of where you will start, you can formulate a plan to find out where you will finish.
For instance, if you love hamburgers, try skipping the antibiotic-laden meat at a fast food restaurant or sold in raw form at the supermarket. See if you can find grass-fed beef from a local butcher, a farmers’ market or a health food store. However, sometimes it’s not that easy. What about the packaged, processed stuff? It’s hard to tell exactly what goes into it. Choosing food with few, pronounceable ingredients will go a long way toward eliminating soy derivatives and chemicals from your diet. Even though you might not be able to say that you “eat clean” today, taking steps toward a healthy, well-rounded diet is much better than doing nothing at all.
Organic food isn’t terribly hard to find anymore, even though it usually is more expensive which makes it a little easier to turn your lifestyle around. Choosing organic options wherever possible, taking advantage of local co-ops and farmers that you may know, and taking the time to truly source your food will help benefit your health greatly. Making organic choices can revolutionize your entire lifestyle, improve your health, and remove toxins that you may not have even known were impacting your health.
Why Eating Organic Is Important
Studies that address questions of how organic eating impacts human health have many factors to take into consideration. Coming up with a firm conclusion is difficult because organic eating isn’t easy. It takes conscious choices, a variety of options and sometimes a bigger paycheck in order to sustain those healthy eating habits. Thus, with all the effort put into procuring organic food, it makes sense to assume that their overall lifestyle is healthier.
This makes it difficult to isolate organic eating as a sole factor. However, these studies do suggest that “organic food consumption may reduce the risk of allergic disease and of overweight and obesity19.” When this, in addition to the lack of pesticides and their impact on the human body is taken into consumption, organic eating is the way to go.
How the Thermo Diet Will Save Your Life
From the toxic chemicals in plastics to the endocrine disrupting additives in your meat, the Western lifestyle is slowly stealing your health. You may not immediately notice the health implications of drinking from BPA-laden containers or eating a turkey that has been injected with antibiotics, but the cumulative effects over time will leave you hormonally imbalanced and suffering from micronutrient deficiencies that can lead to disease and poor health.
Eating organic produce and grass-fed meat is a good first step to reclaim your health, but it is just the beginning of your journey. Learning how to optimize your diet and lifestyle for hormonal and metabolic health will reinvigorate your body and help you return to a state of total wellness. The Thermo Diet will radically change how you perceive both your well-being and the world around you.