Tea, meat and peanuts are some of the simple foods that cause a buildup of “forever chemicals” of PFAS in the body, new research suggests.
While previous studies have analyzed foods for these toxic substances, experts have never been sure how much reaches our systems and stays there.
For the new paper, scientists followed more than 700 participants for more than four years, taking regular blood samples and studying exactly what they ate.
They described the results as “really interesting.”
Foods and beverages typically considered relatively healthy, such as green tea, pork chops and bottled water, were linked to higher levels of PFAS.
On the other hand, French fries, added sugar and tap water did not increase the risk, contrary to other research findings.
Researchers across the United States found that tea, pork, sports drinks, processed meat, nut and seed butters, potato chips, and bottled water cause elevated levels of PFAS in the blood.
PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a category of man-made chemicals used to make water, stain, and heat-resistant products.
They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down naturally and are linked to several long-lasting health problems, including several types of cancer, hormonal disruptions, thyroid problems, birth defects, kidney disease, and liver damage.
The study analyzed two groups of people with a total of more than 700 participants.
For one group, researchers examined what they ate and PFAS levels in their blood over four years. They took blood samples at first and then three and four years later.
They also looked at fast food and found that home-cooked burritos, fajitas, tacos, French fries, and pizza were associated with lower concentrations of PFAS, while those who ate restaurant dishes had higher levels of PFAS in their blood. .
Hailey Hampson, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California and lead author of the study, told The Guardian: “It’s really interesting to find that these foods that may not be as healthy, when cooked at home, were a smaller source of of PFAS. And that clearly points to food packaging.”
The research also found that butter likely increased PFAS concentrations. Eating nuts was linked to lower levels of permanent chemicals in the blood, but nut butters showed higher levels.
The study said: “Since nut and seed butters are packaged in grease-resistant containers, it is possible that nut and seed butters contribute to greater exposure to PFAS through the packaging materials rather than the nuts.” and seeds themselves”.
Higher blood levels of PFAS linked to drinking more bottled water could also imply contamination through packaging or a contaminated water source.
Meanwhile, household tap water was associated with lower concentrations of PFAS levels.
This contrasts with recent EPA data that found more than 70 million Americans live in homes with tap water laced with PFAS.
The researchers theorized that the high levels of PFAS in tea primarily come from tea bags treated with permanent chemicals, although they said more research is needed.
Eating a lot of processed meat was also seen to increase blood levels of PFAS. Hampson said this was not surprising because processing allows multiple entry points for permanent chemicals.
However, unprocessed cuts of pork also showed a strong link with elevated levels of PFAS in the blood, suggesting that the pigs may be contaminated.
People who ate one more serving of hot dogs than others were associated with a 25.4 percent higher blood concentration of PFNA.
PFNA, also known as perfluorononanoic acid, is a synthetic chemical used in the production of non-stick and stain-repellent coatings.
And a higher intake of one serving of processed meat was associated with a 9.8 percent higher PFOA concentration.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is another synthetic substance used to make products that are stain, grease, soil, and water resistant.
To the researchers’ surprise, participants who consumed higher levels of sugar, fruit drinks and soft drinks tended to show lower levels of PFAS in their blood.
They suggested that young adults drink more soda and fruit drinks, which may be less contaminated with PFAS than tap or bottled water.
Fruits, cooked grains such as rice and oats, bread, pasta and some vegetables, including potatoes, were also linked to lower concentrations of PFAS. This is thought to be because these foods are high in fiber, and fiber has the potential to reduce PFA concentrations by increasing the rate at which PFAS are eliminated from the body.
The study concluded: “Our results highlight the need for public monitoring of beverages, processed meats, and food packaging, as well as other well-known sources of PFAS.”
It was published in the magazine International Environment.