Is your breakfast making you fat?
Ever heard of butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)? Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)? Tributyltin (TBT)?
While the names of these chemicals might not seem familiar, they’re commonly found in food and food-related products such as cookware. One of the most common places you can find one of these chemicals, BHT, is in cereal. While the chemical keeps cereal from spoiling easily, companies such as General Mills have announced their intentions to rid their products of the ingredient.
Researchers took stem cells from participants and then grew the tissue that lines the stomach as well as the tissue around the brain’s hypothalamus region. When exposing both tissues to BHT, PFOA and TBT, researchers discovered the chemicals damaged the hormones which help communicate between stomach and brain. Thus, reducing your ability to recognize when you’re full, leading you to overeat.
While BHT had the strongest effects, PFOA and TBT still proved to be damaging. PFOA is found in some cookware, and TBT is typically found in paint, which can sometimes be found in water and end up in seafood.
“Obesity is currently the number one preventable death in the United States,” says Dr. Mary Ellen Moore, a family medicine physician with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “This research could help in understanding this epidemic and how to further combat against it.”
Until further research is conducted and companies are more active in removing these chemicals from their products, Dr. Moore recommends you read packaging labels carefully, especially on cereals and foods with lots of fats and oils.
You should also aim to reduce BHA from your diet, or butylated hydroxyanisole, which is often the related compound associated with BHT. BHA is typically found in potato chips, butter, baked goods, chewing gum and instant mashed potatoes.
BHT, BHA, PFOA and TBT are believed to be safe in low doses, so it’s okay if you can’t eliminate them completely from your diet. But there are plenty of foods available without them today.
While it would be impossible to list all the foods without these chemicals, Dr. Moore says the best rule of thumb is to stay away from highly preserved foods, as BHT is usually found in the packaging.
For more potentially harmful items you might want to consider removing from your house, read here.
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About the Author
Jamie Bonnema, health enews contributor, is a specialist of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She earned her BA in communications from DePaul University in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, going to concerts, and cheering on the Chicago Cubs.