According to researchers at the University of California in Riverside and San Diego, pregnant women are consuming food and beverages containing toxins on a regular basis. These toxins are believed to increase the potential risks to developing fetuses. The study urges health care providers to do a more thorough job of counseling pregnant women about the hidden toxins in their food supply and the dangers these toxins pose to their unborn children.
The July issue of Nutrition Journal published a peer-reviewed study in which a team of psychologists studied the diets of pregnant Hispanic women. Their diets included salmon, tuna, canned foods, caffeine, tap water, alcohol and over the counter medications known to cause birth defects.
The study highlighted many unseen dangers involved with the consumption of toxins in food and beverages that have not been commonly thought of as being unhealthy to an unborn child.
There is an existing stigma surrounding nicotine and alcohol, both of which carry warnings from the surgeon general. By comparison, canned foods, tuna, caffeine and a small number of other foods and beverages are associated with developmental impacts on fetuses but are not thought of as being unsafe.
Two hundred pregnant or recently pregnant women were surveyed in the study. They were surveyed at a private medical group in Downey, California, between December 2011 and December 2012. The women ranged in age from eighteen to forty. Hispanic women accounted for 87% of the study group. About a quarter had a college or post-graduate degree. Nearly all had graduated from high school. Over two thirds had annual incomes of $50,000 or less.
A food questionnaire was filled out by the women. On it, they reported when and how often they consume various foods and beverages during their pregnancies. Additionally, they were asked about any prescription or over the counter medications they were taking while pregnant. Nearly all of the women reported that they ate meat during their pregnancy. About 75% of them reported eating fish, typically tilapia, salmon and tuna. All reported that they consumed fresh fruit. But less than 33% ate the recommended amount of more than one serving of fruit each day.
Three quarters of the women reported eating canned goods, particularly soups, vegetables and fruits. Most reported drinking water every day. Twelve percent of the women drank tap water. Eighty percent admitted to drinking caffeinated beverages. About 6% admitted to drinking alcohol sometime during their pregnancy.
Most of the women took prenatal vitamins. Nearly 50% of the women took over the counter medications at least once and most reported taking prescription medications. The primary over the counter medication taken was acetaminophen.
Consuming salmon, tuna, sugary desserts, canned goods, fast foods, caffeinated beverages, tap water and alcohol during pregnancy have been determined to be unhealthy due to the environmental toxins found within these foods and beverages. These toxins have been shown to have harmful effects upon a developing fetus.
Tuna contains methylmercury. Prenatal exposure to this toxin has been associated with numerous developmental deficits involving verbal learning, motor skills, attention and delayed performance. Farmed salmon has been found to contain large levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCPs). PCPs have been linked to lower birth weights, abnormal newborn reflex abilities, smaller head circumferences and mental impairment in older children.
Metal food cans are lined with a plastic which contains Bisphenol A (BPA). This chemical leeches into the food. Prenatal exposure to this chemical has been shown to increase aggression, hyperactivity and reproductive problems in animal studies.
Tap water also contains toxins that are harmful to fetuses. In Downey, the drinking water has been found to contain 8 pollutants that exceed the federal and state health guidelines. Some of these contaminants are known to cause central nervous system defects, neural tube defects, low birth weight, oral cleft defects and a heightened risk of fetal death.
Caffeine consumed during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects, decreased birth weights and fetal mortality.
The researchers state that there has not been enough research conducted on some of the substances found in the women’s’ diets.
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