Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is what we eat killing us?

Photo by pointnshoot

Researchers have found a substantial link between diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Type II Diabetes Mellitus and nitrates in processed foods, fertilizers and our water supply.

The study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (Volume 17:3 July 2009) says we have become a ‘nitrosamine’ generation’ by moving to a diet rich in amines and nitrates/nitrites, which increase nitrosamine production in the human body. (Nitrosamines, known to be carcinogenic, are produced by a chemical reaction between nitrates, or other proteins especially under high heat like frying, or in strong acid found in the human stomach.)

A 2007 study by Columbia University suggests a link between eating cured meats (such as sausage and bacon) and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The preservative sodium nitrite is the probable cause, and bacon made without added nitrites is available. Processed red meat is a major cause of colorectal cancer.

Nitrates in significant levels are found in ground beef, bacon, cured meats, cheese products, beer and water. Sodium nitrite is routinely added to fish and meat to prevent toxins, and it is used to color (the reddening effect) and flavor meats.

If it isn’t bad enough that we get these additives from processed foods, we now get an over-abundance of them from the increased use of nitrate-containing fertilizers. These nitrates get into our food supply by leaching from the soil and contaminating water supplies used for crop irrigation, food processing and drinking. Through farm runoff, nitrogen also makes its way into streams and rivers, and eventually estuaries and oceans. There, it sets off an explosive growth of algae that steals oxygen away from other organisms, creating so-called "dead zones". (Pesticides and cosmetics also contain significant amounts of nitrates.

My locally grown organic meat and poultry are raised on grass pastures that are not sprayed with pesticides, nor is their grass pasture fertilized with chemical fertilizers. Those meat animals are also not grain-finished (most traditional feed grains are non-organic GMO grains raised by Big Ag). The local abattoir (slaughterhouse) here does not add any coloring or flavoring chemicals to the meats, either.

Is there an easy fix, or some positive direction towards an answer?
I would like to hope so, even though I personally think it is doubtful. If I lived in a high-rise apartment in a big city, there would be no local pastured meat and poultry just down the road… there would be only my corner grocer who stocks factory-prepared meats, and fast food establishments. Most kids are not going to give up Happy Meals, and busy, busy families are not going to give up fast foods.

Humans have been ‘curing’ meat and fish for milleniums... originally,
the only means of preservation. Our cured meats are now largely cultural, and we are not likely to give up the foods of our heritage (or advertising).

What we can do is use our considerable consumer power at the check-out counter (along with contacting our elected government representatives) to demand healthier-raised and processed food products, and more environmental restrictions on the over-use of nitrates which pour into our water supply.

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