Most of us choose to eat what tastes good to our personal palates, but too often our choices promote neither health nor well-being. A decade ago when the National Consumers League asked its members if they had once been a victim of food poisoning, 44 percent responded yes. And its only gotten worse. Even foods that arent tainted cause ill effects. Skin irritation, sluggishness, chronic constipation, impatience, and depression all are symptoms of our bodys reaction to food. Think about how you felt the last time you succumbed to a fast food fix or finished off a bag of chips. Were you edgy? Depressed? Angry? Craving more? Sick to your stomach? Or worse.E.COLIIllness-producing bacteria have become the leading cause of acute kidney failure among children in the United States, causing some 40,000 illnesses and 250 to 500 deaths each year. According to a team of researchers at Tufts University in Boston, as much as 25 percent of the ground meat sold in our supermarkets may contain bacteria that are capable of causing kidney failure and related complications. Un-rinsed fruits and vegetables can also be breeding ground for bacteria. Some outbreaks of illness caused by E. Coli have been linked beyond burgers to lettuce and other produce exposed to fecal matter during growing or transporting to the supermarket.
To avoid the devastating damage of E. Coli as well as of high levels of cholesterol, many of us choose fish instead of red meat. But contaminated seafood causes at least fifty thousand and possibly one hundred thousand people to become ill each year, mostly from bacteria and naturally occurring toxins, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Tropical or island water fish such as snapper and grouper, as well as bluefish, mahimahi, and fresh tuna, are highest in natural toxins.
Additionally, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, many fish exposed to chemical toxins from industrial waste have made it into our food chain, despite stringent laws to protect the consumer.
Mercury is a contaminant found in fish that can affect brain development and the nervous system. The FDA has released guidelines for children, women who are pregnant and women who are trying to become pregnant. These guidelines state that no more than 12 oz. of low mercury fish should be consumed weekly. "Highest" mercury fish should be avoided and "high" mercury fish should be kept to only three 6-oz servings per month. Shark, swordfish and tilefish as well as tuna, all have high levels of mercury.
Unfortunately, were not guaranteed a healthy diet even when we eat so-called nutritious foods like fruits, nuts and vegetables. A major study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences notes that these foods are among those most likely to contain residues of pesticides. Another study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., found that more than 80 percent of peach, apple, and celery samples contained residues of one or more pesticides. The group listed twenty one different chemicals that are used on apples alone.
Although it often takes time for the harmful effects of these toxins to take their toll, some experts warn that subtle damage from toxins early in life can lead to problems such as cancer.GENETICALLY ENGINEERED HORMONESDespite those white mustaches seen on smiling celebrity faces in milk advertisements, the controversy over hormonally treated cows continues. According to the FDA and other major scientific organizations, the genetically engineered hormone used to treat cows so they will increase their milk production, is one of the most stringently researched animal drugs the agency has ever reviewed. Still, the Consumers Union and other groups say that there are serious problems. Some studies, for example, have found that treated cows have a higher rate of mastitis, which is routinely treated with antibiotics that could, at the least, get into a milk drinkers body and boost resistance to bacteria-fighting drugs.BACILLUS CEREUSThe bacterial strain Bacillus cereus is present in a wide variety of foods, including meat, poultry, and starchy foods like noodles. Fried rice stands out as a leading cause in the United States of vomit-accompanied foodborne illness from Bacillus cereus; scientists suspect its because this food is often left out and then reheated before eating. All cooked leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of serving. Even seemingly innocuous items like pasta or vegetables that have been left out for hours after cooking and then reheated down the line can bring on the debilitating symptoms of foodborne illness.Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. She is the author of Ten Days to Detox: How to look and feel a decade younger.See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.