Monday, September 19, 2011

Fatty Foods Contain More Fat-Soluble Industrial Pollutants

People I mention this to (Dr. Greger: "Eating Chicken May Lead To A Smaller Penis") don’t believe it. He was discussing a study where pollutants (phthalates, found in high levels in chicken) increased the risk that women would bear males with a smaller scrotum and penis.

Why wouldn’t chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors result in poor endocrine (sexual) function? And that 10-fold increase in risk isn’t something to sneeze at. Smoking increases the risk for lung cancer by that much, although I know some still say smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer.

It makes sense to me that fat-soluble industrial chemicals would be found in higher quantities in the fatty tissue of livestock where they bioaccumulate. So, I was concerned about their findings on vegetables. I can see that non-animal products are, if not a non-contaminated food, at least a less-contaminated food.

Here's Dr. Greger discussing a study that found vegans have less industrial pollutants in their blood than omnivores:



Unknown said...

"Organic" chicken feed is often quite disgusting as well. I would think that it might even be worse because they sometimes feed them fish meal, adding another trophic level for bioaccumulation. I avoid chicken unless I killed it myself.

Bix said...

If I had a choice, I'd go for organic chicken. But I have to say, from what I've seen and read, there's not a big difference, certainly if the organic bird is industrially produced. And I've often wondered ... since chicken are omnivores, how do they get away with feeding them an "all vegetarian diet?"

Ben P. DaSalt said...

Bix said:
“Smoking increases the risk for lung cancer by that much, although I know some still say smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer.”

It doesn’t. It is a risk factor as you said. Risk factors are not quite the same as causes, though in common parlance we associate the two phrases to mean the same thing.

The reason we need the language of risk factors when discussing behavioral diseases like smoking is because we all know the story of someone’s grandfather who lived to a rip old age and smoked stogies everyday and died from something unrelated. In that case smoking didn’t cause lung cancer, but it was still a risk factor.

But I know you know this Bix, I’m just clarifying for the sake of clarity. Just another day at the Redundancy Department of Redundancy.


The "all vegetarian diet" thing with chicken is completely stupid.

• Chickens aren’t herbivores if left to their own behaviors.
• Vegetarian is a socio-political description.

But’ I’ve mentioned this on this blog before.

Ben P. DaSalt said...

On the Dr. Greger articles, I’m ambivalent. Chemicals do bioaccumulate in animal fat. We know this as is the case with:

• Mercury and PCBs in fish.
• Radiation in cows’ milk (Fukushima).
• Prey animals in the wild (DDT effected bald eagles).

But this isn’t going to really motivate anyone into not eating animal products. The risk factors just don’t amount too much compared to myriad other concerns. Maybe for very health conscious individuals it matters, but then these people are probably consuming artisanal animal products that they believe are clean or at least cleaner than conventional animal products.

As a side note, I always find those fruit and vegetable pesticide dirty dozen lists misleading because they make no mention of bioaccumulation in animal fats. If consumers are really concerned about pesticides and pollutants, they should consider limiting conventional animal products first, before worrying about strawberries. For fun, poke around the Internet for studies on bioaccumulation and dairy, it’s hardly deadly toxic, but contamination certainly isn’t zero either.

Animal grade feed is heavily treated with pesticides because the only concern is yield. Animals in industrial setting are routinely fumigated to control pests; they have to be for such a system to “work.” For cattle, insecticides are routinely applied directly to the animals:
“Backrubbers allow cattle to treat themselves while loafing and scratching. Dust bags are most effective when used where cattle have to pass under them daily to get to water or mineral. Feed additives target horn fly maggots breeding in fresh animal manure. High pressure sprays can be used to treat cattle thoroughly and inexpensively on a per head basis. An insecticide bolus is a large pill-like formulation that is given to the animal with a standard balling gun. Insecticide-impregnated cattle ear tags release small amounts of an insecticide which are distributed over the animal during grooming or rubbing. Pour on insecticides are ready-to use formulations that are applied in measured doses to animals based upon body weight.”

That was gleaned from cursory Internet search, and it’s not the most authoritative looking webpage, but it jives with information I’ve read elsewhere. The backrubbers apply insecticide. The dust in the dust bags is insecticide. Where’s a good place to put them so that cattle interact with them? Near their water source of course, since cattle will drink at least once a day. Glug, glug. (

Sick animals impact slaughter weight and pesticide is cheap, with so many insect vectors and methods of insecticide applications, it's not so surprising that pesticide overuse is probably the norm.

Sometimes Dr. Greger comes across as a touch alarmist, perhaps leaning near hyperbole to encourage plant-based diets. But my sentences above sound alarmist, how can one have a discussion about factory farming without sounding alarmist?

Other times, when I’ve watched Dr. Greger lecture on vegan nutrition to a (presumably) vegan audience (on YouTube), he’s was very cautious and critical, being careful to come to terms with shortcomings. He takes data at face value. Sure, he has his perspective on nutrition, but I haven’t heard him state anything egregiously wrong or woo-ish.

Bix said...

Dr. Greger is pretty new for me. I hadn't run across him before. I appreciate your take on him, Ben.

Bix said...

I just reread that excerpt of yours from on insecticides. Made me sick to my stomach. But I can imagine it's how things are done. And I can imagine chemicals are present in today's meat that weren't there 50 years ago, let alone 100,000 years ago.

Do you have a blog, Ben? You always post such good info it's a shame it gets buried in comments.

Ben P. DaSalt said...

Thank you so much Bix. Your asking if I have a blog is quite a compliment.

I don’t have a blog though.

If I’ve influenced your thinking even a small fraction of how much you have influenced mine with the content of your blog, I’m more than satisfied to have my comments buried here.

Bix said...

I meant to say ... I feel the same way about the EWG's lists about chemicals in fruits and vegetables. Not that they aren't useful lists, but they don't present the findings relative to other foods, like, as you say, animals foods, and wheat products. I read in at least two places that bread and bagels have higher pesticide loads than produce. Even mustard is contaminated, from the seeds I guess.