A new study out of George Washington University has revealed that fast food items from various outlets contain industrial chemicals linked to serious health issues, including endocrine disruptors like phthalates.

The study should provide yet another reason not to eat junk food – as if one was needed.

Industrial chemicals in fast food: new evidence

industrial chemicals
Unlike this breaded and deep-fried mouse, which was allegedly served to a KFC customer, contamination with industrial chemicals is much harder to spot

The researchers bought fast foods from popular outlets. After testing, they discovered the food contained 10 of 11 potentially harmful chemicals, including phthalates, a group of chemicals that are used to make plastics soft and are known to disrupt the endocrine system.

The research team also found other plasticizers, chemicals that are emerging as replacements to phthalates.

Prior to this new study, the team had looked at fast food consumption in a national survey and discovered that people who reported eating more fast foods had higher levels of phthalates. No one has looked at the link between fast food and non-phthalate plasticizers, which are used in place of banned or restricted phthalates in food packaging and processing equipment.

“We found phthalates and other plasticizers are widespread in prepared foods available at U.S. fast food chains, a finding that means many consumers are getting a side of potentially unhealthy chemicals along with their meal,” Lariah Edwards, lead author of the study, said. “Stronger regulations are needed to help keep these harmful chemicals out of the food supply.”

The dangers of phthalate-exposure have been receiving increasing attention in recent weeks after a landmark study which showed that these chemicals could be causing as many as 107,000 premature deaths a year in people aged 55-64 alone.

As well as the great personal cost of these deaths, the study estimated the effects of these industrial chemicals alone could cost the US about $40 to $47 billion each year in lost economic productivity.

In this new study, the researchers purchased 64 fast food items from different restaurants and asked for three pairs of unused food handling gloves. The team tested food items and the gloves for 11 kinds of phthalates and plasticizers.

81% of the food samples studied contained a phthalate called DnBP and 70% contained DEHP. Both of these industrial chemicals have been linked in a number of studies to fertility and reproductive problems in humans. Among children, these phthalates can also increase risk of developing learning, attention, and behavioral disorders.

86% of the foods contained a plasticizer known as DEHT, a chemical whose impact on human health in still unknown.

Foods containing meats, such as cheeseburgers and chicken burritos, had higher levels of the chemicals studied. Chicken burritos and cheeseburgers had the highest levels of DEHT. Food handling gloves collected from the same restaurants also contained this chemical.

Of all the foods tested, cheese pizzas had the lowest levels of most of the 11 chemicals that were tested for.

Phthalates and replacement plasticizers can migrate out of plastics into food. As well as food-handling gloves, industrial tubing, food conveyor belts and the outer packaging used to wrap fast food meals can provide these chemicals.

Previous research by the George Washington team had also suggested that people who eat food cooked at home have lower levels of these industrial chemicals in their bodies, probably because home cooks do not use food handling gloves or plastic packaging.

To avoid these industrial chemicals, consumers can switch to mostly home-cooked meals, which are often healthier than fast food, Edwards said. It’s worth noting that eating outside the home regularly has been linked to a higher risk of all-cause mortality, as we’ve already reported. The focus is usually on extra calories and harmful vegetable oils, however, rather than exposure to harmful industrial chemicals.

Vegetable oils displayed “remarkable estrogenic properties”, according to new study

vegetable oils

A little while back we called vegetable oils “one of the worst foods you can consume“. That was before our article on the serious genetic dysregulation caused to lab rodents by soybean oil, and now another new study has shown that vegetable oils are seriously bad news.

In this new study, researchers looked at GM and non-GM varieties of various vegetable oils and discovered that they demonstrated ovarian toxicity in every case, as well as “remarkable estrogenic properties.”

The researchers note that these estrogenic effects could have been caused by contamination by industrial chemicals, especially phthalates and other xenoestrogens, and end the study by calling for further research into the oils themselves and their effects on humans.

Click here to read more about this study and about how phthalates and plasticizers can contaminate oils – even good oils like olive oil

The authors believe their study shows that there is a need for greater scrutiny and regulation of the industrial chemicals used to make food. Although replacement plasticizers are increasingly used to replace banned or restricted phthalates, studies on their safety have yet to be done.

The study also raises the concern that certain racial groups may be disproportionately affected by these industrial chemicals.

“Disadvantaged neighborhoods often have plenty of fast food outlets, but limited access to healthier foods like fruits and vegetables,” said Ami Zota, one of the authors. “Additional research needs to be done to find out whether people living in such food deserts are at higher risk of exposure to these harmful chemicals.”

Endocrine disruptors: a hidden menace that is destroying fertility and health

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, it was considered the sole preserve of cranks and conspiracy theorists to claim that industrial chemicals found in the environment, especially the drinking water and food supply (including vegetable oils), were causing serious reproductive effects in animals and humans. In 2015, Alex Jones, the host of Infowars, was mocked in the mainstream media for a rant in which he uttered the now immortal line, “I don’t like ‘em putting chemicals in the water that turn the friggin’ frogs gay!”

Now, though, just five years later, those previously “fringe” concerns have well and truly gone mainstream, accompanied by some truly dire predictions. On March 10, Politico ran an article with the headline, “No more babies? The hormone-altering chemicals threatening human procreation”, to coincide with the release of a new book on the subject by Dr Shanna Swan, a world expert on reproductive health at Mount Sinai, New York.

By 2045, Swan claims, the majority of men may no longer be able to reproduce because of the effects of harmful chemicals from a variety of sources.  ‘We’re about 40 years behind global warming, in terms of awareness’, she notes, and yet the threat to human survival is just as great as, if not greater than, our concerns about greenhouse gas emissions. 

According to Swan’s projections from available data, in 2045 the sperm count of the median man will reach zero, meaning that one half of all men will have no sperm at all, and the other half will have an amount that is barely more than zero. The implications are obvious: no sperm, no babies. Such a scenario has already been dubbed ‘Spermageddon’.

The root cause of the massive (59%) decrease in the sperm count of the average Western man between 1973 and 2011 appears to be the growing exposure to endocrine (i.e. hormone)-disrupting chemicals, such as pthalates and bisphenol A, which are now ubiquitous in the modern developed world. Plastics, electronic goods, packaging, pesticides, cosmetics, personal hygiene products and, yes, the drinking water and food supply, including vegetable oils, all contain such chemicals that disrupt male fertility.

And don’t think that women get off lightly either. Miscarriage rates have increased significantly over the last two decades, and women are experiencing puberty at ever younger ages. Such changes will only serve to amplify the male fertility problems modern men are facing.

Here at Herculean Strength we believe nothing is inevitable. What we advocate is a targeted approach that reduces our exposure to endocrine-disrupting substances, whether industrial or natural, as much as possible, and encourages a healthy, active lifestyle and diet that maximises natural testosterone production.

We’ve already devoted a series of articles to the dreadful effects of low testosterone, including its effects on mental health; the industrial compounds such as xenoestrogens and microplastics that are disrupting our hormones; foods that will boost your testosterone and foods that will lower it; and testosterone-boosting natural compounds.

These articles, which include practical guidance on how to rebalance your hormones and optimise your masculinity, will serve as the basis for a full book on the subject, which we have tentatively named Reclaim Your Masculinity.

Regarding dropping male fertility: act like the fate of the species depends on your choices – because this time it really might.

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