Young adults whose diets are high in unsweetened teas, processed meats and takeaway foods could be increasing their exposure to “forever chemicals,” a new study suggests.
However, at the same time, changing these dietary habits could lead to a notable drop in the levels of these compounds, called PFAS, that contaminate the blood, according to the study published Monday in International Environment.
“We're starting to see that even foods that are metabolically quite healthy can be contaminated with PFAS,” said lead author Hailey Hampson, a doctoral student at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. A declaration.
“These findings highlight the need to look differently at what constitutes a 'healthy' diet,” Hampson added.
Known for their ability to persist in the environment and in the human body, PFAS – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – have been linked to kidney cancer, thyroid disease and other illnesses.
Although best known for their presence in certain types of firefighting foams and industrial discharges, PFAS are also present in many household and commercial products, such as nonstick pans and food packaging, as well as in livestock and food. contaminated drinking water.
Building on this existing knowledge, Hampson and a team of researchers explored the impact of food choices on exposure levels among young adults, focusing particularly on a Hispanic subset.
They expressed particular interest in these individuals due to documented health disparities within this population, including a increased risk non-communicable metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
The scientists focused their research on two multi-ethnic groups: a cohort of predominantly Hispanic young adults from USC Children's Health Study and a group of national representatives National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
The first group included 123 people, aged 17 to 22, who participated in the Children's Health Study between 2014 and 2018, while the second included 604 NHANES participants of the same age between 2013 and 2018.
The young adults answered a variety of questions about their diet, including how often they consumed processed meats, dark green vegetables, bread, sports drinks, tea and milk.
They also reported how often they ate foods prepared at home, at fast food establishments, and at non-fast food restaurants.
Participants in the Children's Health Study gave blood samples at two visits, around ages 20 and 24, while members of the NHANES group did so once, around age 19 years old, according to the study.
Looking at baseline and follow-up visits in the USC data, scientists observed the strongest associations between PFAS concentrations and increased consumption of tea and pork.
Just one extra serving of tea was linked to a 24.8 percent increase in a type of PFAS known as PFHxS, a 16.7 percent increase in PFHpS, and a 12.6 percent increase in cent of the PFNA.
Those who reported eating more pork experienced a 13.4 percent increase in PFOA — one of the most studied and notorious types of PFAS.
Researchers observed similar associations in the NHANES, where greater consumption of hot dogs and processed meats was linked to higher levels of PFNA and PFOA, respectively. They found that increased tea consumption was linked to increased levels of PFOS, another common type of PFAS.
Eating food prepared at home had the opposite effect, scientists found.
For every 200 grams increase in home-prepared foods, PFOS levels were 0.9 percent lower at baseline and 1.6 percent lower at follow-up in the USC cohort, the study found.
The NHANES data reached similar conclusions, the authors noted.
While restaurant and fast-food versions of takeout were associated with increased levels of PFAS in both cohorts, scientists observed a stronger link with fast food in the children's health study group.
“These results suggest that fast food may lead to higher exposures to PFAS, which could come from grease-proof food packaging containing PFAS,” they said.
“Homemade foods were consistently associated with lower concentrations of PFAS,” the authors added, while noting that “home cooking may help young adults reduce their exposure to PFAS.”
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