Red Meat Problems: Health Risks – Planetary Damage
July 11, 2017
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August 28, 2017

A recent study links exposure to flame-retardant chemicals and reduced childhood intellectual development. The study was conducted by the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS). It looks at fetal and childhood exposure to PBDE flame-retardant chemicals (polybrominated diphenyl ethers). PBDEs are ubiquitous in the environment. They are found in clothing, furniture, electronics, dust, mother’s milk, red and white meat.

The effect on children (and potentially adults) is significant, and there is a connection with red meat. How? And why?

This important study suggests that PBDEs adversely impact neurobehavioral development. More than likely, the problems are permanent, and may extend into adolescence and adulthood, affecting intelligence, fine motor skills, and thyroid function. Since PBDEs are found everywhere, and degrade slowly (if at all), avoiding core sources of this neurotoxin is probably wise.

Another recent study analyzed 2003-2004 NHANES data for food intake and PBDE in blood. Since this study focused on participants 12 years and older, it is relevant for adolescents and adults. It found that poultry fat was the greatest contributor to the body burden of PBDEs. Red meat intake was also strongly associated with high PBDE levels.
Conversely, what about vegetarians? Not surprisingly, vegetarians had about 25% lower levels of blood PBDEs. The highest levels were found in males, in the youngest age group examined (12-19 years), and in the poor and the underweight.
For some time, we’ve assumed that environmental exposure generally was the principal source of PBDEs. NHANES tells us that exposure through foods is a more important source than previously thought. CHAMOS indicates that intelligence throughout life, and general health, is adversely affected.
Endocrinologists and researchers who study thyroid issues will point out that PBDEs contain a key component that negatively affects the thyroid: bromine. The reason is that the mechanism that absorbs iodine into the thyroid cannot distinguish between other chemicals of the same class (the halogens chlorine, fluorine, bromine and iodine). Evolution didn’t require our thyroid to distinguish these elements, because it is only recently that we have such excessive intake. Whether via food, air, water, dust and mother’s milk, we are exposed to a plethora of halogens that can push aside iodine. Without sufficient iodine, fetal development, behavior, intelligence and well-being suffer, sometimes quite significantly. Lack of iodine during fetal development has clearly been shown to produce profound and negative lifetime effects on intelligence.
A simple bottom line: reduce red meat, and even white meat consumption, and tend towards a vegetarian diet. It’s good for your heart, your brain, and your outlook on life. And if you’re a mother, it’s probably good for your children.

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