Our Food and the Many Unanswered Questions
A Nurse Has Many Questions About Our Food Industry
Food for Thought
I have no degree in nutrition or dietary certifications. I am a seasoned nurse with over 40-years of experience in working with doctors, patients, and many dietary consultants too numerous to mention.
As a nurse for over 40 years, I still have many questions on my mind that seem to create a shared denominator about America's obesity problem, chronic diseases, and illnesses plaguing the American people.
The following are just a few things that I wondered about and did research on. I hope you find some of this helpful in your quest for improved health and wellness.
- Why are America's children and adults in an obesity crisis?
- Why are our young children growing so tall and big (not necessarily obese)? When I pick up my grandchildren from school, I have to wonder why that first grader resembles a sixth grader or a four-year-old looks as though he is a first grader?
- Why are our valuable antibiotics becoming less effective?
- Why are allergies and breathing illnesses such as asthma, sinusitis, and COP on the rise?
- Are additives, preservatives, and dyes causing us harm?
- Are we getting sick from the packaging of our foods?
- What about MSG in our restaurant food?
- What about the steroids used in livestock to help the animals grow bigger and fatter. Do we not ingest these steroids?
Excuses for Being Over Your Ideal Body Weight?
There are many reasons and no concrete answers to individual obesity problems. People do have many excuses, some of which may be legitimate excuses, some may be a cop-out. Only that individual knows the truth.
Why are children growing so large (not necessarily obese)?
Many grandparents can remember buying clothing for their children using the rule of thumb for sizes.
- If the child was two years of age, the child wore a size two.
- If a child was seven years old, they wore a size seven.
When my children were young, up to somewhere in the junior high school, this is the rule of thumb that always worked for me, and it made clothes shopping easier. I believe that years ago children's ages matched their clothing sizes.
Has anyone taken the time lately to take a good look at our children? I have to pick up my granddaughter from school on occasion, and she is in second grade this year. Some of my granddaughter's classmates, my granddaughter included, seem to be older than they are because they are taller and bigger.
My granddaughter is not obese or over her ideal weight range for her height. However, her doctor reports that she is off the pediatric growth chart.
In the second grade, she is now two inches shorter than I am. Granted, I am short at 5'1", but this second grader is two inches shorter than her grandma!
In my opinion, a second grader should not be this tall. This gal wears a ladies size six shoe, and she wears a girl's size 16-18 pants and dresses. She can also wear a ladies size 3-4 slacks or skirt. This girl is not obese by any means.
Many of her friends are as tall (not obese). Some of her cousins appear right along with her in stature. Her brother, my grandson is only four years of age, and he is wearing a children's size six pant and shirt and a size 8-9 boy's shoe! This little boy looks as if he could be in first grade. He will not start kindergarten for two more years! The father of these two children is 6' 3" tall and their mother, my daughter, is 5' 5" tall.
As I speak with other parents and grandparents, they also find this to be true. My question is, "What are these kids eating?"
How in the world do we figure this rapid growth of our young people? In the same breath, we could also ask what is causing America's obesity problem when many of these children are not obese just big for their age? Have I confused you yet? I know I am confused or maybe not.
Valuable Antibiotics Becoming Less Effective?
Doctors must be careful in ordering antibiotics too much for their patients. They want to see if the body will fight off infections without the use of antibiotics.
Adults from the old school of life believe in antibiotics and the healing properties of these medicines. However, the CDC now monitor doctors and the number of antibiotics they prescribe to their patients.
Medical researchers believe the reason antibiotics are becoming less effective against bacteria and germs is that of society taking too many antibiotics in their lifetime.
Many people are said to have built up an immunity to many of the more critical antibiotics to the point that, when the person becomes seriously ill needing the antibiotic, it will not help them overcome the illness.
In my opinion, I do not believe that this is all the doctors' fault. I think that other equations need considering, aside from doctors ordering antibiotics too often.
Allergies, COPD, Asthma, Sinusitis, Emphysema, Rashes, Skin Conditions on the Rise?
Does anyone have any answers to why allergies, skin conditions, and breathing illnesses such as asthma, sinusitis, and COPD are on the rise?
Many people blame the environment, pollution, and the greenhouse effect. Could there be any other reason?
What do these four questions have in common?
Everyone suffering from obesity to allergies, in my opinion, has two things in common.
All of these people, whether suffering obesity or just sinusitis are doing one common thing that I believe can be causing the problem.
They are eating and drinking.
Many people reading this will feel that this idea is far-reaching and not likely possible.
Work with your doctor.
A Shocking Revelation!
For five years, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I worked at Mercy Hospital as a staff nurse in the pediatric unit. There are certain things we learn in life that we never forget and one of the things I learned was to read food and beverage labels and take nothing for granted that I put in my mouth. The following story about the food we may eat is true and shocking.
One day, shortly after Easter, I had a little boy about seven years of age admitted to the pediatric unit. This little boy had a lobster red face (no fever) and he had a lobster red, raised hive rash over his entire body. He was miserable with itching and was admitted to the hospital to find out what caused this to happen. Our doctor allergist was called in to interview the mother, dad, and the little boy.
The doctor asked me to be present for the interview and take some notes. I was so grateful to that doctor for asking me to help. Because of this doctor, I was educated and never forgot what I learned that day.
The doctor asked the parents a series of questions as follows. We can blame this for our rising health issues.
- "Has your son eaten anything different over the last few days?"
- "Has your son taken any medications?"
- "Have you traveled recently?"
- "Has your son drank water from a different location?"
- "Have you stayed overnight anywhere?"
- "Has your son any allergies to any kind of foods, beverages, or environmental issues?"
These poor parents answered, "No, no, and no."
Finally the doctor asked,
Q. "Is your son allergic to any medications?"
A. "Our child is allergic to aspirin, but he had taken no aspirin for this reason. We do not even keep aspirin in our home."
The doctor became very thoughtful and finally asked if the boy received an Easter basket with candy recently. The parents said, "Yes, he had an Easter basket just the day before, but the only thing that he had eaten out of the basket was some Peeps.
The doctor asked the mother what color the Peeps were; the answer was, "Yellow."
The doctor reviewed any allergies with the mother, and again she told the doctor the only allergy the boy had was aspirin and they did not have aspirin in the home for this reason. The doctor then said, "That's it!" The reason for the boy's hives was aspirin.
By this time the mother was becoming a bit frustrated with the doctor for his persistence with the boy's aspirin allergy when she did not have aspirin in the home.
The doctor explained that the yellow food dye used in many foods, including marshmallow Peeps, had the same components as aspirin, so when the boy ate the yellow Peeps, he broke out in hives and an itchy red rash, because he was allergic to aspirin.
Such a simple yet highly complicated answer to this child's dilemma, yellow food dye!
Foods, Beverages, Additives, Preservatives, and Dyes
So what is the common factor between the following four issues?
- The obesity crisis in America in children and adults
- The growth spurt in many children in the 21st Century
- Ineffective use of Antibiotics in the 21st Century
- Allergies and respiratory illnesses on the rise
The Rising Obesity Problem and Increasing Health Issues
- Are our health problems, including obesity, due to the way farmers are raising our livestock?
- How are the fruits and vegetables we eat every day grown? What was put on them in the fields and by the manufacturer?
- Many consumers want to buy meat that is rich in color, the redder color the meat, the better.
- Does the answer to obesity and rising health problems lay in the foods and beverages we ingest every day?
It is strictly my opinion that the way many of our farm animals are raised today for markets and the way the meat is processed is leading to some health issues, including obesity.
I believe that all of the additives, preservatives, sweeteners, and dyes put into our food are another thing we can blame.
For the most part, the public demands certain dyes, additives, and preservatives or they are not going to buy the product. One example of this is as follows.
Nice Red Colored Meat—By Public Demand
It is strictly my opinion that the way many of our farm animals are raised today for the markets and the way the meat is processed is leading to some health issues, including obesity.
I believe that all of the additives, preservatives, sweeteners, and dyes put into our food are another thing we can blame.
For the most part the public demands certain dyes, additives and preservatives or they are not going to buy the product. One example of this is as follows.
Many think that the redder the beef, the healthier the meat.
One week I made my routine stop at our fantastic German meat market. The owner of this meat market was full of knowledge and compassion for quality foods, that adorned his rural meat market.
I stopped at this market on the way home from work to buy three pounds of ground chuck. I asked the owner/butcher why his ground beef was not looking as red as what you see in the grocery stores. His ground beef was a pale pink.
He said that he does not put too much red food coloring in his ground beef. He told me that he must put a bit in his beef or no one will buy the meat.
He then went on to tell me that ground beef is naturally a gray color. He asked me, "Would you still buy ground beef if I sold gray-looking meat?" He said, "No one would buy gray meat, they would think that it is spoiled. People think that, the redder the meat the better quality the meat. So, I add just a bit of red food coloring to make my meat look good to the customers." Call me stupid I guess, but I never knew this.
I doubt if the younger generation is even aware that meat packaging plants used to stamp meat before packaging before sending the product off to stores.
The older generation will probably remember when meat processors used to stamp beef with a light purple stamp used by the USDA for inspection grades on meat. I remember this process, but I never paid any attention to the mark or that I was ingesting ink when mom cooked the beef for dinner.
This FDA stopped this stamping process in the 1980s. Researchers found that this purple dye was shown to cause cancer possibly, so it was banned.
Important! Read the food labels.
Consumers may as well not have food labels on the foods they buy if they are not going to read the ingredients. If you care at all about what you and your loved ones eat, read the labels and know what you are reading before buying the product.
Allow plenty of time to scan the labels visually; it only takes a few seconds. Food dyes, sodium nitrite, potassium bromate, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrups, monosodium glutamate, trans fats, BHA, BHT, sulfur dioxide, and many more ingredients tip the scales in the direction of, not good for your body. Yes, the FDA approves the use of these ingredients.
Americans are great at spending their hard earned money on processed foods to save time in the kitchen without giving a thought about what it is doing to the insides of the human body. Processed foods are treated, stripped of all their nutrients, and refined until there is no nutritional value left. These foods were once whole and full of nutritional value.
You can buy fresh whole foods to cook at home and do the same thing, strip that food source of essential nutrients through the wrong cooking process.
Preserve the Natural Goodness
I spend hard-earned money on better food choices, now I must pay attention to how I prepare these nutritious foods so that I do not lose all the valuable nutrients.
The FDA has our backs, or do they? What are additives in foods?
Most processed foods contain additives. The purpose of additives is to change the food in some manner before it hits the store shelves for sale to consumers.
- Additives include a few ingredients,
- Flavorings to make the item taste better
- Preservatives to assure the food has a more extended shelve life
- Dyes to change the way the food items look, as in my ground beef story.
The manufacturer may also add vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other 'healthy' substances. What was surprising to me is that the packaging around foods contains additional additives that absorb into the food. I had never heard of this.
We all feel better when the FDA or Food and Drug Administration approves specific ingredients in products and products as a whole because their goal is keeping us safe and healthy. Right? Wrong.
Even though the FDA has approved well over 2,500 food additives, this does not mean these additives are healthy for us. Just the opposite, these additives stand to threaten our health.
There are hundreds of more food additives that manufactures use in our foods that are not approved by the FDA because the monitoring of what producers put into foods is low. These additives, generally regarded as safe for consumption may not be safe at all.
Food packaging can penetrate the foods we eat.
Another thing I did not know about additives is that the packaging materials contain unhealthy ingredients that penetrate the foods. These packaging additives are in addition to additives added to food sources. To avoid food packaging I go to a meat market. Correct, I can get better prices in a quality meat market than I can when I buy meat selections in the grocery store.
- Nutritional supplements
- Colors or Dyes.
It is a much better plan to buy whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables versus canned fruits and vegetable and processed foods. Whole foods may be treated, but the treatment is to a much lesser degree. The question is, "Who can afford the price of many of the whole foods on the market today, I, for one, cannot.
While many chemicals are 'FDA approved' there are even more that are not approved and these chemicals when consumed can interact with the consumer to cause health side effects and doctors are usually way off track trying to diagnose the problem. There are nearly 90,000 different chemicals in the food industry today.
Are we better off buying meats at the butchers?
The choice is yours as to wheter you and your family are better of buying fresh cuts of meat or the prepackaged types from the grocery meat counter. Many stores give you options and make available butcher counters for fresher choices of meat that is not prepackaged.
It makes common sense to me that these meat trays and the wrapping used around these trays are manufactured through the use of any number of chemicals.
Do these chemicals really penetrate our food source?
I still have to bring my meat purchase home and wrap individual pieces to put them in my freezer. But I am careful what I use and I buy the lesser threatening product.
What are Preservatives?
The only way to get away from eating preservatives is to eat very fresh foods. Chemicals or preservatives are used in foods for some reasons as follows,
- To prevent discoloration of foods
- To prevent foods from becoming rancid
- To prevent bacteria from forming
- To slow down the ripening process of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Some of these preservatives are propionic acid, nitrates, nitrites, and benzoates.
What are flavorings?
Flavorings mimic specific natural flavors and smell of foods. Particular flavors appeal to humans. Thus, processed foods utilize additives to restore taste when lost during the processing of the food. Most fast food restaurants use flavorings to "restore" the flavor of their many food options.
The word 'natural' is very appealing to the public ear, so when a food item labels as 'natural' the public thinks they are getting natural. However, the food item can contain 90-percent artificial and 10 percent natural, and it is legal to label the food item as 'natural.'
Some favorite flavors include sweeteners, fruit flavors, cheese, and butter. Manufacturers use flavorings in their natural and artificial forms.
It is not unusual for the FDA to state that a food item contains ingredients that have unknown safety consumption. If a label says this, I do not buy that food item.
A few conventional additives in our food supply are Benzoates.
- Benzoates kill microorganisms in foods.
- Potassium Sorbate kills any mold, which might develop in the food item.
- Aspartame is a sweetener, cochineal is a red food coloring, and there are hundreds more.
The sad thing is that even though the FDA says these additives are fit for human consumption, it does not make them safe to consume. Many people have mild to life-threatening allergic reactions to these additives. Just as the little boy, I spoke of earlier.
Is it Sulfa, Sulfate, or Sulfite?
There are so many unanswered questions about how farmers raise our crops, the methods they use and what they put onto the pants that seep into the final product.
There are so many unanswered questions about the way food is processed, packaged, and stored for longevity on shelves.
Is it Sulfa, Sulfate or Sulfite?
Too many of some of these additives links to diseases such as congenital disabilities, asthma, and cancer. Take your pick. The tricky thing is to know what to look for on food labels as there are many additives listed as flavorings and spices, so how is anyone really to know.
Producers use Sulfites to help keep food the right color to make it more appealing for sales in the stores is known to cause allergic reactions in many people.
As an added note to confuse any reader further, there is a difference between Sulfite, Sulfate, and Sulfa. To help clear this confusion, the definitions of each are as follows.
Sulfa is a wonder drug that patients take internally for infections. Sulfa powder used topically on open wounds helps to heal the wound of infections
Sulfate is a salt used in compounding certain medications. Sulfate is compounded from sulfur
Sulfite is a substance used in foods and medicines to help preserve the product
A person can be allergic to one of these substances but show no allergic reactions to the others. Just because a person says they indicate an allergy to sulfa-based medications, it does not mean they are allergic to sulfite.
However, there is a good chance they will be allergic to sulfate because this is an element of sulfur. Also, just because someone has never had an allergic reaction to one of these substances does not mean he or she will ever show symptoms of a negative response later in their life.
It is the law that manufacturers print all of these ingredients on all food labels due to the number of people who are allergic to sulfites. Because a small percentage of the American populace is allergic to this preservative, the FDA is restricting its use to only certain foods.
A Personal Story About Saccharin
Years ago, there was a sugar substitute on the market consumers could put into their food and beverages. As a matter of fact, this sugar substitute was the only one available.
This substance was called saccharin. Because saccharin was shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats during the 1970s, it now comes with a warning label on its package, even though the FDA has approved its use.
I had a dear great uncle who was diagnosed with diabetes in early 1990. At this time, my uncle could use saccharin or nothing to sweeten his coffee and other food items. He could not use sugar and some foods do not taste good unless sweetened.
I remember my uncle bought small jars of tiny flat pills which was his saccharine that he used religiously. While my aunt and uncle were in Michigan for a visit in 1972, my uncle developed difficulty swallowing. His swallowing problem was so bad, my uncle decided to go back to Florida and see his doctor immediately.
The doctor put my uncle in the hospital right from his office and ran some tests. The doctor diagnosed my uncle with cancer of the esophagus and stomach. My uncle was only in the hospital for a week when he passed away. The cause of this cancer was undetermined.
Several years later information came out about saccharin, now known as a cancer-causing agent. I always felt that his cancer was due to the amount of this sweetener he used on a daily basis. One can only assume and since there was no history of cancer in his family, it makes me convinced that the amount of saccharin my uncle used over the years caused this cancer and early death.
Is MSG an old wives tale?
My husband and I love to eat Chinese food; however, every time he eats this food, he soon complains of a nasty headache. It is not uncommon for Chinese restaurants to add a flavor enhancer to their foods called MSG.
Restaurants want their foods to taste good and they want your business in the future. MSG can make a person,
- Feel Weak
- Complain of Nausea
- Experience Shortness of Breath
- Become Drowsy
- Experience chest pain with a rapid heartbeat
It is for this reason that we tell the waitress we Do Not Want MSG added to our food order. Fortunately, the Chinese Restaurant we enjoy in our city does not use MSG.
However, I still tell the waitress to make sure the chef does not add any MSG to our food. I simply tell the waitress we both have a serious life-threatening allergy to MSG, then the chef is very careful to follow our request.
Reading the food label on these food items can fool the consumer as the manufacturer can put natural flavor or hydrolyzed yeast extract and no mention of MSG.
**However, natural flavor and hydrolyzed yeast extract are MSG.
Nitrites in Hot Dogs?
If you are planning a romantic night with your loved one, do not serve them hot dogs for dinner.
Researchers found nearly 15 years ago that nitrites cause lung disease for people who eat cured meats on a regular basis. The percentage of developing lung disease is over a 70 percent chance over those who do not eat cured meats. That percentage is too high for me not to sit up and take notice. Manufacturers add Nitrates to,
- Luncheon Meats
- Hot dogs
So what do we do? Quit eating?
I, like many others, enjoy the food options available today. I enjoy a tasty hot dog now and then.
Is it possible to eat healthy at an affordable price?
This is what I have chosen to do. My plan is not perfect, but I believe it is a better plan than what I did for years prior.
- I avoid or greatly decrease anything with food additives, preservatives, and dyes.
- I try to avoid any products that are labeled processed foods such as, Cheese, TV Dinners, Prepackaged Dinners
- I buy from local fruit and vegetable stands and attempt to buy in bulk to fresh freeze for the winter. I gave up canning years ago. I believe this is better than buying fruits and vegetable flown in from some far-away place.
- I serve beef only twice a week.
- I buy more fresh caught fish and use albacore tuna.
- I buy my meat from a quality meat market.
- I purchase Amish foods when it is available.
- I feel that these locally grown foods do not contain the greatest amount of additives, preservatives, and dyes found in store foods.