Microplastics for dinner: Why even the best of foods may be damaging

Feb 26, 2022
Microplastics may be ruining your health, without you even realising it. Source: Getty

We are constantly being reminded that one of the keys to good health is to eat and drink good quality food and fluid. But, although there has been increasing evidence and publicity around all the synthetic chemicals we are constantly being exposed to, most people seem to be ignoring this information.

A recent study from the University of Copenhagen published in the journal with the very unfortunate name, the Journal of Hazardous Materials, demonstrated that after 24 hours of water being stored in a plastic bottle, hundreds of synthetic chemicals are detected. This includes over 400 different substances from the plastic bottle itself and more than 3,500 substances if the bottle is washed in the dishwasher. Yuck. However, the levels of these chemicals are typically so low, that it cannot be known if they are creating any potential toxicity.

The study also looked at variations on the theme of plastic bottle use and reuse. The researchers tested plastic bottles before and after dishwasher use, and with five extra rinses in tap water. In other studies, it has been shown that, in certain doses, this variety of chemicals can cause disruption of your endocrine system – the system that controls all of your hormones – or even have potentially carcinogenic impacts.

A recent excellent review by Medical News Today, outlined the current knowledge about what is known as microplastics in food. These microplastics are found in all forms of food packaging, of which plastic water bottles are one example. But, microplastics are found in any container that is used for food packaging. Shocking, right?

As a simple example, open your refrigerator. How much of the food is not in some form of a plastic container?

Chemicals

The Medical News Today article mentions a number of microplastics with unpronounceable names, none of which sound particularly safe, some of which include:

  1. Bisphenol A (BP-A): Essential in the production of polyvinyl chloride, the parent plastic of most products in this range.
  2. Dioxin: A source of herbicide and paper bleaching.
  3. Phthalates: There make plastics more flexible, transparent and durable.
  4. Polyethylene and polypropylene: Used to make packaging more lightweight and durable. 


What can these chemicals potentially do?

Endocrine disruptors

All the common hormones in the body including oestrogen, testosterone and insulin may have their natural functions disrupted by any of these chemicals. Studies have shown in the past that BP-A may increase infertility in males and females, along with increasing the risk for polycystic ovaries.

Chronic disease

There is a link between these microplastics, type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Microplastics are pro-inflammatory, which exacerbates insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the most common genetic abnormality in the world; it affects 30 per cent of Caucasians, 50 per cent of Asians and close to 100 per cent of people with darker or olive skin.

Altered immunity

Microplastics also affect the gut microbiome. It is worth noting that 70 per cent of the immune system is localised in the gut. Excessive microplastics from the regular use of packaged food, plastic containers and drinking bottled water creates an overabundance of unhealthy bacteria which are associated with a variety of systemic diseases including Parkinson’s disease.

The bottom line

A variety of studies have suggested that these microplastics are very common in people who regularly consume water from a plastic container but there is also a disturbing amount of exposure in the inhalation of microplastics from non-food sources.

The bottom line here is to avoid – as much as is possible in this modern, fast-paced, synthetic world in which we live – processed foods contained in containers. Use only eco-friendly packaging and also drink from a glass or stainless steel.

I wrote a book many years ago, Diets Don’t Work and one of the chapters in the book was titled “Convenience is killing us”. Processed packaged food and the containers used to store this food are very convenient but the evidence is mounting that this convenience is truly killing us.

 

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

How much of your food comes in some form of a plastic container?

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