Could our food be making us sick?

| Posted On Apr 22, 2011 | By:

Three news reports recently caught my eye because they each raise concerns about the safety of many of the foods we eat.  As a Nutritionist, I am usually asked how a food might affect conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol.  But I wonder how many individuals stop to think about the production, processing or storage of our food, and the long-term impact those things may have on our health.  Perhaps it’s time to make some changes in our diets now, so we can be healthier later on. 

A few weeks ago, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) met to see if there’s a link between food dyes used in products like Jell-O, Cheetos, Doritos, Pop Tarts, and Lucky Charms (among many others), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some studies suggest that artificial food dyes may worsen children’s behavior. 

Should you worry?  It’s not clear yet.  Whether or not they are harmful will probably be debated for a while.  The bottom line is that food dyes are unnecessary, and you can take steps to reduce or eliminate them from your diet right now:

Also making news was a study on Bisphenol A or BPA, the chemical used in many plastics. BPA has been examined for possible links to heart disease, cancer and infertility, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that most of us have detectable levels in our bodies.  BPA is commonly found in foods packaged in plastic or in metal cans which are lined with BPA.  It’s also used in the production of plastic water bottles and many containers that we use to store leftovers.

Before you stop bringing your healthy leftovers for lunch, here are two bits of good news:  a recent report from the Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent Spring Institute found that eating fresh (not canned or plastic packaged) food for at least three days reduces the level of BPA and DEHP (another chemical used in some plastics) in our systems dramatically, and more companies are producing BPA free plastics.

What can you do to reduce your exposure?

Finally, have you heard that low levels of radiation from Japan have been detected in milk on the US west coast?  Those in the know assure us the levels are so low, they pose no health risk.  The FDA is keeping track, so check in from time to time for the latest updates.

In summary, I am in no way urging you to become vegan or vegetarian or to buy only organic, but I do recommend the following:

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About Anne Danahy, MS, RD, LDN

Anne Danahy, MS, RD, LDN has been a Nutritionist with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates for the past 15 years, and she currently works as the “Virtual Nutritionist." Her professional interests include weight management, heart disease, and women’s nutritional issues. When she isn’t working, you can usually find her in the kitchen testing recipes that are healthy AND delicious.


  1. In reading about prediabetes, I had difficulty relating to Ms Danahy’s advice. in this way.

    My husband is 87 with borderline diabetes. His mother developed Type 2 in her 70s. Cyril is underweight ( 5’5″ & 130 lbs ) so most of the suggestions for losing weight didn’t relate to him. He has a replaced hip and can’t walk briskly for 30 min. 5X a week. Nor can he play softball or swim for an hour. He walks less briskly for 15 min. several times a week; not enough am sure.
    He has a hard time eliminating a cookie or small piece of cake with his morning and afternoon tea ( no sugar added).
    I wander what else he could do to prevent becoming diabetic. His older sister had a stroke but don’t think she was diabetic.
    That’s my comment on the guidelines provided.

    Comment by Gail Kruss on August 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm

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