Are Microplastics On Your Plate? A New Report Says Yes - Save Our Bones

New research from Consumer Reports has found microplastics in an alarming number and wide variety of prepared and packaged foods. The compounds tested for, bisphenols and phthalates, are associated with numerous adverse health effects.

In this article, we'll explore the new research and explain how these plastic compounds make their way into our food, the problems they cause, and how best to avoid them.

Plasticizers Found In Common Foods

Researchers at Consumer Reports (CR) tested a combination of basic supermarket items and fast food dishes for bisphenols and phthalates. These two types of compounds are called plasticizers, and they give plastic increased flexibility and durability.

The researchers tested 85 foods including prepared meals, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, baby food, fast food, meat, and seafood. All tested items were packaged in cans, pouches, foil, or other materials.

Bisphenol A (BPA) and other bisphenols were detected in 79 percent of the tested samples. This is an alarmingly high percentage, however, the levels of these compounds were lower than when CR last tested for BPA in 2009. There has been some improvement, but there's a long way to go.

Phthalates were found in all but one food (Polar raspberry lime seltzer) and at much higher levels than bisphenols.

None of the foods exceeded the limits set by regulators for compounds that have regulatory status. However, Consumer Reports quoted researchers and scholars who believe these plasticizers cause harm at levels well below those limits.1

Alarmingly, there was a wide range of plasticizers in the tested foods, and it was difficult to predict which foods would have high levels. Different products from the same companies and similar products across companies often differed widely in their levels.

Fast foods were consistently and notably the worst offenders. Overall, the study found that packaged and prepared foods tend to contain a significant quantity of plasticizers, and phthalates, in particular, are abundant.1

Synopsis

In a test of 85 packaged foods conducted by Consumer Reports, researchers found bisphenols and phthalates, compounds known as plasticizers. Phthalates were found in all but one item in large quantities.

How Phthalates and Bisphenols Affect Your Body

Phthalates and bisphenols are widely recognized as a threat to health.

These compounds are called endocrine disruptors because they harm the endocrine system's ability to regulate hormone levels. This disruption impacts the functioning of multiple organs, leading to negative long-term effects.

Regulators in the U.S. and Europe have set threshold limits for bisphenol A (BPA) and a few phthalates. However, many experts argue that the level limits are too high, and that other plasticizers should be regulated as well.

None of the foods Consumer Reports tested had amounts exceeding the existing limits, but the scientists that CR spoke with didn't feel comfortable saying that smaller amounts of plasticizers were not harmful.

Studies have linked one phthalate called DEHP to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, reproductive issues, early menopause, and other health problems at levels well below the limits set by American and European regulators.2

DEHP was the most common phthalate found in the tests conducted by Consumer Reports. More than half of the products they tested had levels exceeding what research has linked to health problems.

Synopsis

Phthalates and bisphenols pose a threat to health. Few plasticizers have been regulated, and experts suggest the levels allowed in foods are still harmful. The phthalate most frequently found by Consumer Reports has been linked to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, reproductive issues, early menopause, and other health problems.

Plasticizers Overburden Kidneys, Disadvantaging Bone Health

For Savers, one of the most troubling dangers of plasticizers is their impact on kidney function.

The primary function of kidneys is to filter toxins from the blood and expel them in urine. The kidneys are made up of about a million filtering units called nephrons. Nephrons consist of a filter, called the glomerulus, and a tubule. The globule filters your blood, and the tubule returns needed substances to the bloodstream and removes waste.

This process is critical for bone health because the kidneys filter acidifying toxins from your blood. They also introduce alkalizing bicarbonate. When this double benefit is impaired, systemic acidification becomes a risk. The body responds by stripping alkalizing minerals from bone to maintain a healthy pH. In this way, poor kidney function leads to bone loss.

One study found that exposure to several types of phthalates was linked to reduced kidney function measured by estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR).3 Since plasticizers reduce kidney function, they also threaten the strength and density of bones.

Synopsis

Your kidneys filter acidifying toxins from your blood. Plasticizers have been found to reduce the kidney's filtration rate. This reduced function can lead to acidification, which causes bone loss.

How Plasticizers Get Into Your Food And Your Body

As scientists first became aware of the presence and danger of plasticizers, they proposed that the compounds were being introduced into foods through flexible plastic packaging. While that assumption proved true, it is only a small part of the larger picture.

Even foods that never touch the type of plasticizer-loaded packaging in question show significant levels of these compounds. Further research has revealed that plastics are making their way into our food supply in an alarming number of ways.

  • Packaging – Foods that are packaged in plastics absorb plasticizers from their containers. This includes lined metal cans, plastic wrap, and even jar gaskets.
  • Processing And Handling – Materials used in food processing, like the plastic tubing used in oil and milk production, or the conveyor belts used in processing plants for all manner of packed food production leech plasticizers into food. Vinyl gloves, like those worn in the kitchens of fast food restaurants, are as much as one-third plasticizer by weight. Food handled with vinyl gloves absorbs significant quantities of plasticizers, which may explain why fast food contains such high levels.
  • Environmental Exposure – Plasticizers are so common that they've made it into the soil, the water, and the air. Landfills leech plastics into the soil and the water, and plants that produce or incinerate plastic release it into the air. Now that microplastics are everywhere, they contaminate our food as it grows.
  • Agricultural Practices – Animal products may contain plasticizers before any processing has begun because, like humans, animals consume food and water that has been contaminated. Even plants can absorb plasticizers from the soil, especially if plastic mulch has been used to deter weeds.

Food is not the only source of exposure to microplastics. Plasticizers are often used in the fragrances added to beauty and self-care products. They can then be absorbed through your skin. Plasticizers are also present in synthetic clothing made from vinyl.

Because plastics are so ubiquitous, dust in urban environments often contains high levels of plasticizers. That means they may be entering our systems through the air we breathe.

It isn't possible to completely avoid these compounds given the facts of modern life. However, our diet is one area where we can take steps to avoid contamination.

Synopsis

Microplastics are entering our food at every step of the process. Environmental microplastics can be absorbed by animals through their food and water and by plants through the soil. Processing steps that include plastic tubing, conveyor belts, or handling with vinyl gloves all further contaminate foods. Finally, packaging leeches plasticizers into our foods.

How To Avoid Microplastics

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of microplastics that make it into your food, and subsequently into your body. By keeping your level of plasticizers low, you can enable your kidneys to do their job effectively without sacrificing your overall health, including bone health.

Employ these strategies to reduce your exposure:

  • Avoid storing food in plastic containers. Instead, use glass or steel containers. Metal containers are often lightweight and useful for transporting food.
  • If you do use plastics occasionally, never microwave them or put them in the dishwasher, as the heat increases the amount of plasticizers they release. Replace plastic containers regularly.
  • Increase your consumption of plant-based foods. Plasticizer levels are higher in animal products than in plant products. By choosing plant foods you automatically reduce your exposure to microplastics.
  • Choose animal productions wisely. When you do eat animal products, choose organic meats, eggs, etc. Plasticizers collect in animal fat, so choosing low-fat products also reduces exposure.
  • Prepare your own foods. Avoid processed and prepared foods. Less production and processing means fewer plasticizers. That includes pre-chopped vegetables and bagged lettuce. Additionally, when you prepare your own meals, you can tailor them to your bone health needs. Savers are already ahead of the curve in using their kitchens to reverse and prevent osteoporosis.

Synopsis

To reduce your exposure to microplastics, don't store food in plastic containers, eat more plant foods, choose low-fat and organic animal products, and prepare your own meals, avoiding packaged foods whenever possible.

What This Means To You

Unfortunately, plasticizers are not completely avoidable. But that doesn't mean you have no power to make healthy choices that reduce plasticizer levels and protect your kidneys and your bones.

Because plasticizers have a short half-life and your kidneys filter them continually, it is possible to give your body a chance to take a break and reset. If you want to give your body and your bones a clean slate restart, try the Osteoporosis Fresh Start Cleanse.

This seven-day cleanse isn't like other cleanses you may have heard about or tried. It's an easy-to-follow program that nourishes your body and gives it everything it needs while providing a break from acidifying toxins.

The Osteoporosis Fresh Start Cleanse is a great way to kick off new health habits or give your health goals a boost. It helps your body get rid of toxins, lighten the load on your important vital organs, and move you in the direction of resolving the low-grade acidosis that weakens your bones.

After the cleanse you’ll have more energy and vitality, accelerated bone building, a younger appearance, better liver and kidney function, and you’ll even sleep better.

Take advantage of the natural tools we have at our disposal to build a healthy, independent, and joyful future!

References

1 https://www.consumerreports.org/health/food-contaminants/the-plastic-chemicals-hiding-in-your-food-a7358224781/

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8157593/

3 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147651322007709

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  1. Ghassan Mahir

    Thanks Vivian for the propagation of important knowledge all the time.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      My pleasure, Ghassan!

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