This week, the CDC is expected announce that autism affects 1 in 88 children in the United States. One in eighty-eight. One in fifty-four boys. This statistic almost doubles the 1 in 150 number given only 5 years ago. This is a problem and they say it is not an epidemic. How is it not? There are many reasons that could be explained, including doctors recognizing and diagnosing it more, over diagnosing, vaccinations, but I chose to briefly look at how food could be affecting this increase in autism.
When my granddad was growing up in Tallapoosa County (Alabama), his family grew and raised everything they ate. The only things his family purchased were tea, coffee, sugar, and flour. They raised their own chickens, pigs, and cows. They planted their own corn, tomatoes, and other vegetables. When they ate a potato, it was a potato. Their chickens were raised from baby chicks and it took time for them to get big enough to eat. Their eggs were eggs.
Flash forward to 2012. A potato is no longer a potato. The USDA allows a number of pesticides to be used on foods. A 2005 study showed that in Washington state, potatoes were sprayed with up to 17 difference chemicals. One of which is O-Phenylphenol. Just check out this New Jersey Right to Know Hazardous Substance state fact sheet here. It can effect your kidneys and can stay in your system for years. It is “not classifiable as to its potential to cause reproductive harm.” Now to be fair, NOT all of the chemicals sprayed on our produce is hazardous. But When I buy a potato, I want a potato. Not a potato + “other ingredients.”
So just for a moment, imagine you purchase a lot of produce each week as my husband and I do. If I am not buying local and organic, I don’t really know what is all in my food. You eat a combination of foods daily, thats a load of chemicals in your body… daily. They build up in your system. Some can stay in your system for years. You get pregnant, you breastfeed… all these chemicals are being absorbed into a little child with no defense system for them. Now, this is just my opinion, but we all know what happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda. Two common everyday ingredients have a chemical reaction. I can’t imagine all of these chemicals NOT having some kind of reaction in our human bodies. Children’s brains are not completely developed until a few years down the road-so I think it is a reasonable belief that some of these chemicals mess with the developments of the brain. Again, my opinion and my thoughts only.
I would even go as far and say that these chemicals have effects on the obesity crisis in America. An effect, not the cause. I firmly believe Americans overeat and are not informed about what they are putting on their plates. I was buying pickles last week and was surprised to see that yellow dye and high fructose corn syrup were in dill pickles. I thought pickles just needed cucumbers, vinegar, salt, and dill. There is HFCS in a crazy amount of foods on the shelves at the grocery store. There is no reason not look at the ingredients of what you are buying. Don’t be ignorant. Be active in buying food for your family.
One last point. Americans are so obsessed with “low fat” and “fat free” foods, that they confuse healthful and “foods that won’t make you fat.” Fat free diary products are not healthier alternatives to their full fat version. Americans are taught to look only at nutritional labels, not the little blurb of ingredients that follow.
Moral of the story. Be informed. Fat free can often mean added HFCR, MSG, artificial and unnecessary added ingredients. Just read the labels and by read the labels, I mean read more than the amount of fat and carbs. Is it work sacrificing your health for a smaller waistline? Practice moderation if you really want something. Opt for healthful alternatives if there are any. Don’t deprive yourself, we all human and I can guarantee I have things in my pantry that have terrible ingredients in them. But I don’t reach for those things daily. I do my best. Any effort on your part is better than trusting the front of food boxes and believing their insanely good marketing ploys.
Oh, and I would like to add that it is YOUR responsibility and yours alone to educate yourself. It’s not the government’s responsibility to tell you what to eat (obviously chicken nuggets are not healthy). Ok. I’m done.