Toxins in Modern Day Farming: What Your Food Labels Aren’t Telling You

The next time you go the grocery store and fill up your cart with fruits, vegetables, bread, and snacks, chances are that most of them will contain traces of a chemical called glyphosate. Glyphosate is the most widely produced herbicide in the world. In the US, it’s referred to as “Roundup.” You could say that Roundup is ubiquitous in our environment. People everywhere, every single day, are being exposed to over 700 different products treated with it (from agriculture and forestry to home use). That’s why I want to take this newsletter to call your attention to something that has almost certainly had an effect on your health.

Certain individuals and organizations have taken great pains to make sure that the safety of glyphosate remains foggy. Proponents claim that it’s organic and breaks down, but that is highly debatable. In reality, new data is suggesting that glyphosate is NOT harmless; rather, it may pose serious health risks to anyone who ingests it.

The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer just published a study this past March classifying glyphosate as a probable carcinogen in humans, citing correlations to cancers of the thyroid, liver, bladder, pancreas, and kidney. In addition, glyphosate exposure may be a cause of many chronic health problems. Autism in particular tends to be strongly correlated to glyphosate usage (see chart). Stroke, diabetes, obesity, metabolism disorders, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and inflammatory bowel disease are other conditions that become more common with increased glyphosate exposure. In one instance, a 54-year old man accidentally sprayed himself with glyphosate. A month later, he developed parkinsonian syndrome. 

Scientists think glyphosate might even be disruptive to the community of bacteria living in our intestines—otherwise known as the microbiome—by causing the population of bad bacteria to overtake the gut. Studies show that good bacteria tend to be more susceptible to glyphosate than bad. The good bacteria often can’t survive at all when exposed. Scientists are still assessing the importance of the microbiome to overall human health, but it is speculated that the disruption of the microbiome could be tied to diseases such as metabolic disorder, diabetes, depression, autism, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disease. Other conditions glyphosate has been tied to include allergies, infertility, depression, and Crohn’s disease. 

Remember, correlations are not causations; but they do give us good reason to be concerned over the use of a chemical that seeps into each and every one of our lives. Glyphosate enters the body by being either 1) absorbed through the skin or 2) directly ingested with food and water containing glyphosate. Soy, corn, and sugar beets tend to be heavily treated with glyphosate. These crops have been genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate; so when farmers treat their fields with roundup, the weeds die but the crops live—only saturated with glyphosate. These crops are referred to as “Roundup Ready Crops.” Roundup Ready crops are staple ingredients in most processed foods. Soy especially is often used in livestock feed; meaning animals are also ingesting large amounts of glyphosate. We then ingest that glyphosate when we eat meat. 

Avoiding glyphosate isn’t easy and unfortunately, no one alive today will have led a glyphosate-free life. The question is, just how much has it affected your health? If you want to know more about the effects glyphosate has had on you personally, Ann Arbor Holistic Health can perform a comprehensive test for you measuring glyphosate exposure. For more information please contact Gary Merel at garymerel@annarborholistichealth.com or 734-222-8210. 

As far as how to avoid glyphosate: try to eat non-genetically modified foods and drink reverse osmosis water. Always buy organic when you can and always buy grass-fed meat. Avoid products made with corn, soy, and other roundup ready crops which, like I said, tend to be in most processed products. Ideally, you would wean yourself off processed foods altogether. Drinking extra water might also be helpful. Since glyphosate is water soluble, drinking more can help flush your system. 

Again, if you want to know more about the effects glyphosate has had on you, consider getting tested. When a toxin is ubiquitous in our environment, it becomes almost impossible to escape the consequences; but the first step to better health is to be informed on the state of your own body.

Red Meat Isn't Bad for You

Red meat (beef, pork, lamb) has been in the headlines recently, and not in a sympathetic light. Just this past month the World Health Organization declared cured and processed meat (like bacon, sausage, ham, etc.) as “group 1 carcinogenic”; that means that when it comes to causing cancer (colon cancer, specifically), these meats are now in the same category as tobacco, asbestos, alcohol, and arsenic, according to the WHO.

The WHO’s conclusion is disturbing, but not entirely unprecedented. Different people and different health organizations have been preaching against red meat for decades now, telling us not to eat it due to high fat content, high cholesterol content, or now, carcinogenic effects.

I want to take this newsletter to put to rest the idea that red meat is bad for you. To start, comparing bacon to cigarettes is absurd. Smoking raises a person’s risk of developing cancer by about twenty-fold; eating bacon doesn’t produce a risk anywhere near that. Even though the WHO placed red meat in the same category as cigarettes, asbestos, etc., not all substances in this group share the same level of hazard. In fact there have yet to be any studies conclusively showing that red meat is in any way bad for your health, let alone a carcinogen.

That’s because almost every study on red meat consumption is subject to a phenomenon called “healthy user bias.” Healthy user bias is when people who engage in one healthy behavior tend to engage in many other behaviors they perceive to be healthy. Likewise, people who engage in one unhealthy behavior often engage in many other unhealthy behaviors. For example, participants in most observational studies who eat red meat also have a tendency to smoke more, exercise less, and eat unhealthily in general. Most of these people, when they eat red meat, will eat it with a huge white bun and a load of fries cooked in refined oil! Because we can’t control for these other factors, we can’t conclude that red meat specifically is the culprit behind cancer presence; especially considering the fact that refined carbohydrates and oils may very well be the true carcinogens. 

Ideally, we would be able to conduct experiments that could control for things like healthy user bias. But this is an impossible mission. Cancer often develops slowly from any number of things: environment, genetics, etc.. We could never control for every detail of a participant’s life over several decades. Thus we have to rely on mere observational studies, which often show a correlation but fail to establish causation. There is good evidence that what is taking place in these red meat studies is in fact correlation, and not causation, because we can’t single out red meat as the cause of cancer in these individuals, especially given that they tend to lead an unhealthy life style. In other words, people with cancer tend to eat more red meat, but if you eat red meat you aren’t more likely to get cancer.

Actually many studies have failed to show even mere correlation between red meat and cancer. For a positive correlation to be present, you would expect to see a linear relationship between red meat consumption and cancer rates—i.e. as a person’s red meat consumption increases, his/her risk of developing cancer increases just as much. But we don’t see this in many cases. In fact some studies result in a decrease in cancer rates in people who ate the most red meat.

Now, certain studies are offering a different explanation behind the increased cancer rates in red meat eaters. Because people who eat red meat tend to engage in many other unhealthy behaviors, they often develop a dysbiotic microbiome. The human microbiome is the vast community of baceria living in and on the human body. These microbes help us digest food, keep our immune systems healthy and much more; in fact, they are crucial to our health. A dysbiotic microbiome occurs when the trillions of microbes living in and on the human body (specifically in the gut), are compromised—often due to poor diet, alcoholism, etc. There is scientific evidence that people with unhealthy microbiomes tend to be at a greater risk for cancer, regardless of whether they eat red meat. 

Likewise, someone who eats a lot of red meat but who has a very healthy microbiome is likely at a much lower risk of developing cancer. Red meat can even contribute to the health of the human microbiome when eaten responsibly. It’s rich in B vitamins, Vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, Iron and other minerals. Just be sure to buy it organic and grass-fed. If you skip the bun and starchy sides, red meat is good for us so long as, like everything else, we eat it in moderation. 

As long as you’re doing other things right (exercising, eating vegetables, checking portion size, etc.), red meat does not pose a threat to your health. So don’t let the headlines scare you away from it. In reality, organic, grass-fed read meat is rich in nutrients and can help make us healthier when eaten in moderation.