By Dr. Mercola
With escalating rates of childhood illness these days, it is more important than ever to be careful about what you feed your child, from day one. Babies are already born at considerable risk due to the toxic load of their mothers. Some of this is from exposure to plastics and the contaminants present therein, such as BPA (Bisphenol A). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has detected BPA in the urine of 95 percent of people tested.
And now there's evidence these toxins are being spread to babies even BEFORE they're born.
In 2009, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found an average of 287 toxins, including BPA, mercury, fire retardants, and pesticides, in the umbilical cord blood of American infants. If your baby is exposed to numerous toxic compounds in utero, it lengthens the period of exposure to carcinogens, thereby making your child more susceptible to cancer and other diseases later in life.
This underscores the importance of minimizing your child's risk for exposure to toxic compounds in the foods you feed him.
Yet, so many well- intenioned moms unknowingly add to their baby's toxic load by feeding them contaminated, chemical-laden infant formulas (in plastic bottles) during their first several months, then hit their tender little immune systems with cereal, which is the LAST thing they should be eating because it's mostly grain, which turns into sugar.
Now, baby food manufacturers are compounding the problem by suggesting that busy moms feed their toddlers highly processed food sold in convenient plastic tubs. As if that isn't enough, you microwave it first, further destroying and denaturing its nutritional value and promoting leaching of toxic chemicals right out of the plastic and into your baby's meal.
When you look at what we, as a society, are sacrificing by feeding our children processed foods, together with the amount of sugar our youth are consuming from candy and juices, sodas and further disabling their immune systems by bombarding them with 29 vaccines by the age of two—then letting them spend their days idly sitting in front of televisions and computers—it's no wonder we have the unhealthiest children in generations.
Western children, as a whole, are showing this damage in the form of lowered IQs, mood and behavioral problems, skyrocketing obesity rates, and multiple forms of chronic disease that are occurring at earlier ages.
Some baby foods are worse than junk foods.
I am not a fan of cooking foods in the microwave for a number of reasons, which I've covered extensively in this past article. Microwaved food has been associated with the following problems:
- Causes your food to vibrate at very high frequencies, changing your food's chemical structure, structurally deforming its molecules and potentially making nutrients unrecognizable and unusable by your body.
- Creates the formation of free radicals and carcinogenic molecules.
- May result in actual changes to cellular DNA.
- May corrupt or destroy biophotons (light energy in living food).
- Some microwave ovens leak microwave radiation into the surrounding environment.
If you want to make use of your microwave, use it to clean your dishrags and sponges, but not to prepare food for your family.
Please Remember: Microwave Ovens and Plastics Don't Mix
One of the greatest concerns about microwave ovens is what happens to plastics and the food they contain when you heat them in this way.
When you put "microwave safe" plastic into your microwave oven, you're not going to see it bubble or melt, or see sparks fly or smell toxic fumes. You won't see or taste plastic particles in your food. As the microwave heats the plastic, the chemical bonds break silently and invisibly. If your plastic is scratched or worn, the degradation is worse.
So, as long as you stick to "BPA-free" plastics, you're okay, right?
Not necessarily so, according to what researcher and BPA expert Frederic vom Saal of the University of Missouri has discovered during his decade of research. Vom Saal states, "There is no such thing as microwavable plastic." His studies revealed leaching of BPA from all plastics tested.
BPA is a major ingredient in polycarbonate plastics, and those are often combined with other plastics, although it may not say so on the label. Polycarbonates are used in the following products (this list is by no means comprehensive):
- Canned food and soda can linings
- Plastic milk jugs
- Plastic wrap
- "Microwave-safe" plastic dishware
- Nalgene and other water bottles
- Baby bottles and sippy cups
- Toys and pacifiers
Vom Saal's studies showed that BPA is released when any BPA-containing plastic is exposed to heat, such as from dishwashers and hot food. For example, in 2007, polycarbonate drinking bottles were shown to release BPA 55 times more rapidly when exposed to boiling water. Some studies have also detected leaching at room temperature.
Plastics Pose Extraordinary Risks for Babies
That BPA should be taken out of all products intended for babies or children is a no-brainer. The cumulative effect of being exposed to even minuscule amounts of BPA from cans, bottles, plates and all other sources over the years can eventually spell serious trouble for your child. Research tells us the chemical can raise your risk for a long list of serious health problems:
✓ Heart disease
✓ Liver problems
✓ Structural damage to your brain
✓ Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
✓ Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
✓ Altered immune function
✓ Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, and ovarian dysfunction
✓ Changes in gender-specific behavior, and abnormal sexual behavior
✓ Stimulation of prostate cancer cells
✓ Increased prostate size, and decreased sperm production
Of 115 published animal studies, 81 percent found significant effects from even low-level exposure to BPA. This endocrine disrupter first caught researchers' attention after normal mice began to display uncommon genetic abnormalities. The defects were linked to plastic cages and water bottles that had been cleaned with a harsh detergent, causing BPA to leach out of the plastic.
How Much BPA is Too Much BPA?
The more research comes in, the more we realize there is probably NO safe level of BPA. Some of the greatest concern surrounds early-life exposure to BPA, which can lead to chromosomal errors in the developing fetus, triggering spontaneous miscarriages and genetic damage. Exposure to only 0.23 parts per billion of BPA is enough to disrupt the effect of estrogen in your baby's developing brain.
Although sometimes the amount of BPA leaching out is incredibly small (40-60 parts per trillion, or ppt), several peer-reviewed studies found harm to laboratory animals at levels even lower than that—as low as 25 ppt.
For some appreciation of scale, one part per trillion is like one drop of water diluted into 20 Olympic-size swimming pools, or about three seconds out of every hundred thousand years! Experts on the biological effects of BPA state there IS cause for concern, particularly in babies, given their developmental vulnerability and how even tiny amounts of BPA can trigger cell damage.
According to the Journal Sentinel:
"Studies have shown that at 25 and 250 parts per trillion, BPA can cause harm in laboratory animals, including precancerous changes in breast tissue, reproductive abnormalities and changes in brain cell and neural growth. And beginning at 2 parts per trillion, scientists saw a trend toward decreasing testicle weight in adult male rats. A 2007 Japanese study found similar levels in human breast milk."
Babies up to age 12 months or so can't metabolize BPA as efficiently as adults. No one gets more BPA per pound of body weight than newborns, as illustrated by the following shocking example.
The Journal Sentinel calculated the following BPA exposure you could expect from an average baby's food intake, based on CDC nutritional estimates (If your child is smaller, the levels would be even higher):
So, a one-month-old baby on formula could be getting 450 parts per trillion BPA per day, which is 18 TIMES the level shown in scientific studies to cause cellular damage. A toddler could be getting 300 ppt daily, which is still 12 times the minimum dose shown to cause damage.
More than 200 research studies now show that BPA is harmful to human health. Yet, every attempt to get the FDA to ban the toxic chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups has failed, thanks to heavy pressure from the chemical industry. BPA in baby bottles has already been banned in Canada and in several U.S. states. The next time you see a label with the words "microwave safe," remember there was also a time when they claimed DDT was safe.
Tips for Getting the BPA Out of Your Life
You can reduce your family's exposure to this toxic chemical by following these simple tips:
- Replace your plastic kitchenware and plastic food storage containers with glass, ceramic or stainless steel. If you opt to use plastic kitchenware, at least get rid of the older, scratched-up varieties, avoid putting them in the dishwasher, and don't wash them with harsh detergents, as these things can cause more BPA to leach into your food.
- Only use glass baby bottles.
- Avoid using plastic wrap (and never microwave anything covered in it).
- Use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel travel mugs for hot beverages, rather than plastic or Styrofoam coffee cups.
- Avoid using bottled water; instead, filter your own using a high-quality filter, then store it in glass drinking bottles.
- Never microwave food in a plastic container. Work toward eliminating the use of your microwave altogether for anything except cleaning.
- Purchase natural fabric toys instead of plastic ones, and if you're going to purchase teethers and pacifiers, looks for those that are BPA-free.
- Avoid using canned foods (including soda pop), because the linings often contain BPA. If you choose to eat canned foods, choose only those that come in BPA-free cans.
- Before allowing a dental sealant to be applied to your children's teeth, ask your dentist to verify that it does not contain BPA.
How an Advertising Blitz in the 1950s Hoodwinked the Public into Believing Babies Needed Rice Cereal
Almost every childcare book offers the same advice about a baby's first solid meal—start them first on rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. This has been the standard line for 60 years now.
But there is no scientific basis for this recommendation—none at all.
According to Stanford University pediatrician Alan Greene, other than breast milk or formula, rice is the number one source of calories for infants in their first year of life—and this is a nutritional disaster. The notion originated in the 1950s when baby food companies launched an advertising blitz trumpeting the benefits of white rice cereal.
White rice is a refined carbohydrate, one of the highly processed, nutritionally devoid foods that have been linked to increased rates of heart disease, insulin resistance, eye damage and cancer in adults, and are nutritionally worthless for infants as well. Feeding infants cereal has been associated with an increased risk of type 1 diabetes and may prime your baby for a lifetime of carb cravings for white bread, cookies and cakes.
According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, high sugar content and starchy carbohydrates lead to excessive insulin release, which in turn leads to falling blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia causes the brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, panic attacks and an increase in suicide risk.
This glutamate is identical to the flavor-enhancing monosodium glutamate (MSG) and its chemical cousins, found in literally thousands of food products, which further inflame the problem.
In addition to taking a physical toll on your child's health, food dyes, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and other chemical additives cause a multitude of behavioral and mood disturbances. This is just one more reason to avoid feeding your toddler pre-packaged and highly processed "convenience foods"—including the new microwaveable ones.
What Should Your Baby's First Solid Food Be?
It certainly isn't any form of grain-based infant cereal! When flour is refined to make cereal, the most nutritious part of the grain is removed, so the flour essentially becomes a form of sugar. When you feed your baby a bowl of infant cereal, picture yourself dipping directly into your sugar bowl and feeding baby a spoon or two, because that's essentially what it amounts to.
So what's a better option?
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, egg yolk should be your baby's first solid food, starting as early as 4 months, whether your baby is breastfed or formula-fed.
Egg yolks from free-range hens contain the special long-chain fatty acids so critical for the optimal development of your child's brain and nervous system. Although egg yolks are excellent, be aware that egg whites may cause an allergic reaction, so they're best avoided until your child is at least one year old. If you want some simple recipes and guidelines about how to feed your toddler, refer to this article.
Preparing REAL Food Without Being a Slave to Your Kitchen
The best thing you can do for your child is to model good eating habits. Don't shoo your toddler out of the kitchen—instead, involve him in what goes on in there. Use your kitchen as a classroom where you teach him the connection between food and health and happiness.
Some of the warmest childhood memories are from ordinary days and activities together with family members gathered in your kitchen.
Also, take your little ones out into the garden so they can see where REAL food comes from, rather than believing food comes in little plastic tubs from the grocery store. Help them plant their own veggie pot and witness the miracle of transformation from seed to food. Consider Nutritional Typing for your children. Nutritional typing is an important tool to let you know which types of foods are best for your unique biochemistry, and it works for kids of all ages too.
Preparing meals from scratch requires a time commitment. Naturopath Colleen Huber authored an article several years ago that is full of great tips that can help you streamline this process. For example, PLAN AHEAD—you are more likely to cave into ordering that pizza if you are tired from a long day and have nothing ready in the fridge.
Another good strategy is "cooking big and freezing small," which makes for easy homemade weeknight dinners that are always readily on hand.
I've said this for many years, and it's worth repeating again—the secret to your health, and your children's health, is preparing real food from organic whole ingredients, preferably local or raised in your own backyard, the way humans have done it for thousands of years.