REVEALED: Tea, pork chops and peanut butter – the surprising foods that are teeming with cancer-causing ‘forever chemicals’, study suggests

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Teas, pork, sports drinks, nut and seed butters and snack chips had high levels
  • And pizza from a restaurant raised PFAS levels more than pizza cooked at home
  • READ MORE: More than 70MILLION Americans living with PFAS-laced tap water

Tea, meat and peanut are some of the unassuming foods that lead to a build-up of PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ in the body, new research suggests.

While previous studies tested food for these toxic substances, experts have never quite been sure how much of it makes its way into our systems and stays there.

For the new paper, scientists tracked more than 700 participants for over four years, taking regular blood samples and studying exactly what they ate.

They described the results as ‘really interesting’. 

Food and drink normally considered relatively healthy, like green tea, pork chops and bottled water, were all linked to higher levels of PFAS.

On the other hand, fries, added sugar and tap water were not found to raise the risk, contrary to the findings of other research. 

Researchers across the US found that teas, pork, sports drinks, processed meat, nut and seed butters, chips and bottled water are led to high PFAS levels in the blood 

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a category of man-made chemical used to make products resistant to water, stains and heat.

They are termed ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not break down naturally and are linked to several lasting health problems, including several types of cancer, hormone disruption, thyroid issues, birth defects, kidney disease and liver damage.

The study looked at two groups of people with a total of more than 700 participants. 

For one group, the researchers examined what they ate and the PFAS levels in their blood over four years. They took blood samples at the start and then three and four years later.

They also looked at fast food and found that burritos, fajitas, tacos, French fries and pizza cooked at home were associated with lower PFAS concentrations, while those who ate the dishes from a restaurant had higher PFAS levels in their blood.

The diet that led to lower PFAS levels 

  • Home-cooked food
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Domestic tap water
  • Sugar
  • Fruit drinks 
  • Soda 
  • Fruit
  • Cooked grains such as rice and oatmeal
  • Breads
  • Pastas 
  • Some vegetables, including potatoes

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The diet that led to higher PFAS levels 

  • Restaurant-cooked food 
  • Tea (sweetened and unsweetened)
  • Pork
  • Sports drinks
  • Nut and seed butters
  • Snack chips
  • Bottled water

 

 

 

 

 

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Hailey Hampson, a University of Southern California doctoral student and the study’s lead author, told The Guardian: ‘It’s really interesting to find that these foods that are maybe not so healthy, when they’re cooked at home were a lower source of PFAS, and that definitely points to food packaging.’

The research also found that butter likely increased PFAS concentrations. Eating nuts was linked to lower levels of forever chemicals in the blood, but nut butters showed higher levels.

The study said: ‘Given that nut and seed butters are packed in grease-resistant containers, it is possible that nut and seed butters may contribute to greater PFAS exposures through the packaging materials rather than the nuts and seeds themselves.’

Higher blood PFAS levels linked to drinking more bottled water could also imply contamination via packaging, or a contaminated water source.

Meanwhile, domestic tap water was associated with lower concentrations of PFAS levels.

This contrasts recent EPA data which found that more than 70 million Americans are living in homes with tap water that is laced with PFAS.

The researchers theorized that high PFAS levels from tea mainly comes from tea bags treated with forever chemicals, though they said more research is necessary.

Eating lots of processed meat was also seen to increase PFAS blood levels. Hampson said this was not surprising because processing allows for multiple entry points for forever chemicals.

However, non-processed cuts of pork also showed a strong link to heightened PFAS blood levels, which suggests that pigs may be contaminated. 

People who ate one more serving of hot dogs than others were associated with a 25.4 percent higher PFNA concentration in the blood.

PFNA, also known as perfluorononanoic acid, is a synthetic chemical used in the production of non-stick and stain repellent coatings.

And a one-serving higher intake of processed meat was associated with a 9.8 percent higher PFOA concentration.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is another man-made substance used to make products resistant to stains, grease, soil and water.

To the researchers’ surprise, participants who ate higher levels of sugar, fruit drinks and soda tended to show lower levels of PFAS in their blood.

They suggested that young adults drink more soda and fruit drinks, which may be less contaminated with PFAS than tap or bottled water.

Fruit, cooked grains such as rice and oatmeal, breads, pastas and some vegetables including potatoes were also linked to lower PFAS concentrations. This is thought to be because these foods are high in fiber, and fiber has the potential to reduce PFAs concentrations through increasing the rate at which PFAS is disposed of in the body.

The study concluded: ‘Our results highlight the need for public monitoring of beverages, processed meats, and food packaging containers, in additional to other well-known sources of PFAS.’

It was published in the journal Environment International.

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