Artificial sweeteners, found in soft drinks, many diet foods and an astounding number of children's cereals for unclear reasons, may do more harm than good. While marketed and perceived as helping people avoid calories, they can have two insidious side effects: because they are sweet they encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence just like salty foods train people to crave salt, says research in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. And, because sweetness is "decoupled from caloric content," they fail to satisfy the sweets reward system and actually further fuel "food seeking behavior," wrote the researchers. See: giving starving dog a rubber bone. One artificial sweetener, Splenda also has molecular similarities to endocrine disrupter pesticides say food safety advocates.
Noting that the average child in the U.S. and other developed countries "has received 10--20 courses of antibiotics by the time he or she is 18 years old," microbiologist Martin Blaser published some disturbing suggestions in the journal Nature last year. By killing "good" bacteria with important roles in the body, "Overuse of antibiotics could be fuelling the dramatic increase in conditions such as obesity, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies and asthma," he reports. Yes, obesity. Mice given low-dose antibiotics that mimic farm use and high-dose antibiotics that mimic infection treatment in children exhibited preliminary "changes in body fat and tissue composition," says Blaser. Mice developed as much as a 40 percent increase in fat and a 300 percent increase in fat when given a high-fat diet too, extrapolated Alice Wessendorf on the research. Denmark researchers found eerie parallels in humans. Babies given antibiotics within six months of birth were more likely to be overweight by age 7.
Antibiotics are not the only widely used substances that may be associated with a host of human problems. Chemicals called endocrine disrupters, found in everything from canned foods and microwave popcorn bags to cosmetics and carpet-cleaning solutions and are linked to breast cancer, infertility, low sperm counts, genital deformities, early puberty and diabetes in humans and alarming mutations in wildlife. Many are aware of the endocrine disrupter BPA (Bisphenol A) banned in baby bottles and sippy cups in Washington state but given a pass by the FDA in March. But fewer realize that similar endocrine disrupters are found in flame retardants like phthalates and PBDEs, thermal receipts given out at stores and in "antibacterial" dish detergents and toothpaste. Like Tricoslan found in Colgate's Total. Endocrine disrupters may also be linked to obesity. Pregnant women with high levels of PFOA, one disrupter, were three times as likely to have daughters who grow up to be overweight, reported the New York Times Nicholas Kristof in May.
Livestock Growth Drugs
Is it possible that the growth promoters Agribiz uses to fatten U.S. livestock are also fattening people? Europe boycotts U.S. beef because of its oestradiol-17 and trenbolone acetate, hormones which it says are linked to prostate cancer, breast cancer and precocious puberty. European regulators have also disallowed antibiotics and arsenic used as growth promoters, which the U.S. allows. (Yes, arsenic.) Still, the mother of all growth promoters is ractopamine, an asthma-like drug given to 60 to 80 percent of U.S. pigs, 30 percent of ration-fed cattle and an undisclosed number of turkeys. Ractopamine, which few food activists are aware of, is given during the last weeks of life and not withdrawn before slaughter. Who allowed that?
Start 'em Young Marketing
Bad eating is learned young and unfortunately some of the worst messages come from TV, parents and school. In a study in the Journal Pediatrics, 4- to 6-year-olds who tasted identical graham crackers and gummy fruit snacks with and without cartoon characters "significantly preferred the taste of foods that had popular cartoon characters on the packaging." Researchers who studied 500,000 California middle- and high-school students found those with schools near fast-food outlets were heavier. And in another study of kids 12 to 19 found not one child ate a diet meeting all five of the American Heart Association's criteria. Even though almost a third of U.S. children and teens are overweight, 84 percent of parents believe their children are at a healthy weight, say researchers, which compounds the problem.
Hooked on Cookies"and Chips and Pizzas and HÃ¤agen-Dazs -
For some overweight people, overeating is an actual addiction. Like alcoholism, food addicts are "preoccupied with their drug (food). Whether they are thinking about their next meal, trying to suppress their cravings, planning their diet, feeling guilty about their last binge [or] hoping to find the strength to say no to that dessert or second helping," writes Arya M. Sharma, M.D. on KevinMD.com. Like alcoholics they dream their troubled relationship to food can miraculously heal, perhaps if their brain readjusts its "setpoint" or they spend "an hour in the gym each day," says Sharma. The increase in food addiction might correlate with the decrease in family meals, indicates some research. Studies by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reveal that food and other addictions are less likely to develop in children of families who eat together three times a week. Who remembers family meals?