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Two Food Additives Found to Have Estrogen-Like Effects

March 19, 2009 | 117,936 views
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food additives, estrogen, hormones, puberty, xenoestrogens,propyl gallateScientists have developed a fast new method to identify food additives that act as "xenoestrogens" -- substances with estrogen-like effects that are stirring international health concerns.

They used the method in a large-scale screening, and discovered two additives with previously unrecognized xenoestrogen effects. 

Xenoestrogens have been linked to a range of human health effects, including reduced sperm counts in men and increased risk of breast cancer in women.

The scientists used the new method to search a food additive database of 1,500 substances, and verified that the method could identify xenoestrogens. In the course of that work, they identified two previous unrecognized xenoestrogens -- propyl gallate, a preservative used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling, and 4-hexylresorcinol, which is used to prevent discoloration in shrimp and other shellfish.

What Are GMOs?

From April 19th through April 25th we launch GMO Awareness Week. We set aside an entire week dedicated to providing you with information on GMOs and labeling initiatives.

GMOs are a product of genetic engineering, meaning their genetic makeup has been altered to induce a variety of “unique” traits to crops, such as making them drought-resistant or giving them “more nutrients.” GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is “safe and beneficial,” and that it advances the agricultural industry. They also say that GMOs help ensure the global food supply and sustainability. But is there any truth to these claims? I believe not. For years, I've stated the belief that GMOs pose one of the greatest threats to life on the planet. Genetic engineering is NOT the safe and beneficial technology that it is touted to be.

Help Support GMO Labeling

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—Monsanto’s Evil Twin—is pulling out all the stops to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food. For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. For example, Monsanto has made many claims that glyphosate in Roundup is harmless to animals and humans. However, recently the World Health Organization (WHO) had their research team test glyphosate and have labeled it a probable carcinogen.

Public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We're fighting back. That's why I was the first to push for GMO labeling. I donated a significant sum to the first ballot initiative in California in 2012, which inspired others to donate to the campaign as well. We technically "lost the vote, but we are winning the war, as these labeling initiatives have raised a considerable amount of public awareness.

The insanity has gone far enough, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. More than 80 percent of our support comes from individual consumers like you, who understand that real change comes from the grassroots.

Thankfully, we have organizations like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to fight back against these junk food manufacturers, pesticide producers, and corporate giants.

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More

Together, Let's Help OCA Get The Funding They Deserve

Let’s Help OCA get the funding it deserves. I have found very few organizations who are as effective and efficient as OCA. It’s a public interest organization dedicated to promoting health justice and sustainability. A central focus of the OCA is building a healthy, equitable, and sustainable system of food production and consumption. That's why I'm proud to announce I will be matching donations up to $250,000 this week.

Please make a donation to help OCA fight for GMO labeling.

Donate Today!


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

I've written about the dangers of endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol A, PFOA and Personal care products many times. I like to consider xenoestrogens fake estrogens but their name literally means “foreign estrogens.” Either way they are synthetic chemicals that mimic natural estrogens, and have been linked to a wide range of human health effects.

There are so many of them, and they’re used in so many common consumer products that trying to avoid them may seem like a fruitless struggle.

For example, you come in contact with hormone disrupting chemicals through:

  • Pasteurized dairy, which commonly contains bovine growth hormones
  • Soy products, which are loaded with hormone like substances
  • Plastics – many of which contain Plastic
  • Personal care products that contain phthalates 
  • Cooking with Teflon-coated pots and pans

Now you can add certain food additives to the list – and some very common food additives at that.

Hormone-Mimicking Food Additives Recently Discovered

In the U.S., more than 3,000 substances can be added to foods for the purpose of preservation, coloring, texture, flavor and more. While each of these substances is legal to use, whether or not they are entirely safe for long-term consumption – by themselves or in combination – is a different story altogether.

The analysis published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology actually found not just two, but 31 potential estrogen-mimicking food additives during their search.  

Of those, propyl gallate was found to act as an antagonist, and 4-hexylresorcinol as a potent transactivator. Antagonists block the binding of an agent at a receptor molecule, and transactivators increase the rate of gene expression. In conclusion the authors’ state: 

“Some caution should be issued for the use of propyl gallate and 4-hexylresorcinol as food additives.” 

However, I don’t think we’ll see any of them removed from the market any time soon. Propyl gallate, for example, has been used since 1948 as a preservative to stabilize cosmetics, food packaging materials, and foods containing oils and fats. It can also be found in: 

  • Hair products
  • Adhesives and lubricants
  • Processed meat products and potato products
  • Chicken soup base
  • Chewing gum and candy
  • Dried milk
  • Baked goods, and more 

Propyl gallate is frequently used in conjunction with BHA and BHT, which come with their own set of health hazards. These two additives also keep fats and oils from going rancid and are commonly used in processed food products such as cereals and potato chips, even though some studies have found they too, cause cancer in rats. 

The other food additive mentioned above, 4-hexylresorcinol, is commonly used as an anti-browning agent in shrimp and other shellfish. 

But it’s also used as a starting material to produce synthetic catecholamines, which have important physiological effects as neurotransmitters and hormones (such as epinephrine, adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine).  

Additionally, you can find it in common consumer products such as: 

  • Pharmaceutical acne treatments
  • Anti-dandruff shampoo
  • Sunscreen lotions
  • Antiseptic mouthwashes
  • Skin wound cleansers
  • Throat lozenges

Potential Health Dangers of Propyl Gallate

In addition to being an endocrine disrupter based on this latest analysis, the results in a previous study by the National Toxicology Program (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) showed that propyl gallate caused various types of cancer and other health problems in rats, including:

  • Thyroid tumors in male rats
  • Rare brain tumors in low-dose females
  • Prostate inflammation
  • Mostly benign tumors of the preputial gland (glands that produce pheromones)
  • Pancreatic tumors
  • Adrenal gland tumors in low-dose males

As you can see, in some instances the health effect only showed up in the low-dose groups but not in the high-dose groups, and only in either males or females – a perfect example of just how little anyone really knows about how these types of chemicals might affect your body, or the body of an infant, for example. 

Potential Health Hazards of Common Anti-Browning Agent   

The anti-browning agent 4-Hexylresorcinol is applied to shrimp and other crustacean seafood to prevent the development of black spots which may occur naturally.  

A toxicology study by the School of Biological Sciences, University of Surrey, England, discovered that 260 mg/kg was lethal to all cats used in the study. Granted, that is a very high dose; however, based on their data, the researchers also concluded that 4-Hexylresorcinol was carcinogenic in both the 13-week and 2-year studies, and also caused a high incidence of nephropathy in mice (an autoimmune disease that affects your kidneys). 

A 1984 study determined the probable lethal dose for humans to be anything above 500 mg/kg. 

How to Protect Your Family

If you have children xenoestrogens are clearly something you will want to avoid. Here are some measures you can take to protect you and your children from common toxic substances that could cause them to go into puberty more than a decade before they were designed to:

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