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If We Are What We Eat, We Are in Trouble

If We Are What We Eat, We Are in Trouble

pollution and foodIf you or a client have done your homework, eaten your broccoli, and made an effort to move more, but you still aren’t feeling the benefits of your healthy changes, the culprit may be food pollution.

Again this month, new research shows that if we are what we eat, a lot of us are in trouble.

Imagine, we need to take care to keep arsenic out of our diet! The Dirty Dozen list identifies apples, celery, and cucumbers as particularly likely to contain a lot of pesticide residue. This is not to mention what happens to our cows as they are turned to beef

While we know that these chemicals can be toxic and carcinogenic, the FDA tells us their concentrations are too low to have an impact on our health.

New research published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) can help us see the limitations of this judgment.

The study found that when exposed to low-levels of common food pollutants, in other words, levels that have been considered safe, the glucose tolerance of obese female mice deteriorated, meaning that their insulin signaling mechanism went awry. Their male counterparts experienced a different but equally disconcerting effect. Their livers were affected, resulting in poorer cholesterol synthesis and transport.

“More and more pollutants are contaminating the air we breathe and the food we eat, and we are starting to see that concentrations considered to be safe in isolation may give rise to disease when mixed together. The resulting cocktail has significant impact on public health and contributes to the epidemic of chronic diseases we are currently facing.”

While the study did not directly look at impact of the air we breathe on metabolism, it is not far-fetched to think that air quality can also have similar impact on health, respiratory and otherwise.

There are 3 ways we can exert our wellness leadership, and say that enough is enough!

  1. Educate, educate, educate! Ignorance can be bliss, but knowledge is power. Tell your most enthusiastic participants about the dangers of air and food pollutants. Their best efforts at becoming healthy may be void otherwise. Share this article. If we can start attracting more people’s attention to these issues, reduce the demand for food that’s been produced through doubtful processes, and shed more media light on the problems of pollutants in combination, the companies who are perpetuating these unsafe practices will have to consider alternatives.
  2. Get involved! Please consider joining some of the organizations that dedicate their energy to putting pressure where it will be felt to make sure the food we eat and the air we breathe become cleaner. If a money donation isn’t in the cards for you right now, you can still show your support by participating in their email campaigns. Here are the ones I personally and actively support:
    • Mom’s Clean Air Force rallies forces to protect our children’s right to clean air.
    • Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible, and sustainably produced.
    • Greenpeace. While I love animals, I make sure my donations go to preserve the planet so all creatures can enjoy it for years to come.
  3. Re-confirm your commitment to organic food, or re-evaluate your doubts about the expense, at least for the Dirty Dozen. In addition to maintaining your own health, you’ll be supporting farmers and merchants committed to providing cleaner food.

We can’t be fully healthy living in an unhealthy environment, so I’d love to hear what you’re doing to help make our food sources as clean as possible. Please share!

  • Nancy Moynihan

    I see Monsanto Corp as one of the biggest sources of toxic food and pesticide dissemination. I put considerable effort and energy into countering the influence of that and other corrupt corporations that control much of our food production, using the means you describe here as well as other methods.

    My greatest concern is that it is all on an unalterable path toward pervasive food corruption because we cannot reach an influence tipping point that changes the course of food politics.

    As for organics, the price is approaching double that of non-organic produce based on my research locally. It is not possible for much of the population to buy organic. It is elitist to push the meme that organic food is accessible for most people and it relieves people with money from engaging in activism to change the system.

    You are correct. We are doomed if we do not reign in the freedom of corporations to engage in corrupt, unethical food production. When it comes to food, capitalism sucks. And the kicker is that we subsidize them with billions of tax dollars due to the power of the purse to control lawmakers.

    • Thank you for your effort in trying to keep our food sources safe, Nancy! I agree that we are still far from reaching the tipping point, and that’s why I am motivated to not only spread the word about the issues, but also share concrete ways we can join forces so we can get closer.

      You are also correct that organic food is more expensive. Certainly not double in my area, but probably 30-50% more expensive. While I realize that it is not accessible to everyone, I think it is a good thing to support it as much as possible – not only for our own health, but for the health of the planet. A lot of the people who can afford it don’t, because they don’t realize the importance (probably misinformed by claims of the non-organic food companies!), so I feel we need to keep spreading the word. The more people decide to buy organic, the more we can reduce its price and make it increasingly accessible to a growing number of people. Not to mention, for some, buying a majority of organic food may not be possible, but starting with the dirty dozen is, and that’s already a great step in the right direction.

      Lastly, I agree with you on the subsidy point you are making. Something I will address in an upcoming post, actually!

MJ Shaar – in 20 seconds


MJ is one of the most sought-after experts blending positive psychology and health promotion. She spent over 15 years coaching, teaching, speaking, researching and testing smart health habits. Marie-Josée Shaar received her undergrad at McGill University in Organizational Behavior, followed by a Master of Applied Positive Psychology at University of Pennsylvania. She's certified as a Wellness Culture Coach, a Personal Trainer, and a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant.

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