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New study finds link between diet choices and 'forever chemicals' lingering in our bodies: 'We need more testing of these foods'

"We should do more targeted monitoring of them."

"We should do more targeted monitoring of them."

Photo Credit: iStock

A new study revealed that how we're fueling ourselves could be increasing the accumulation of toxic "forever chemicals," or PFAS, in our bodies. 

What happened?

As detailed by the Guardian, scientists discovered people who ate large quantities of processed meat, butter, and food prepared in restaurants had higher levels of PFAs (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in their blood. 

The study, which examined more than 700 people over a four-year span, indicates that food packaging contamination may be one factor, as popular takeout foods such as fries, pizza, and tacos did not cause an uptick in the concentrations of PFAs if they were instead prepared at home.

People who drank bottled water, which is typically sold in single-use plastics, also had higher levels of the chemicals. 

Researchers are still in the process of understanding their findings, as there were a few surprises along the way, including that sugary fruit drinks and soda were associated with a lower buildup of PFAs.

"The main takeaway is not to demonize certain foods or say, 'Oh my gosh, this food is so unhealthy,'" USC doctoral student Hailey Hampson, the lead author of the study, told the Guardian. 

"The point is to highlight that we need more testing of these foods, and this gives us an avenue to say, 'OK, these foods may have higher levels of PFAS, so we should do more targeted monitoring of them,'" Hampson added. 

Teas, pork, sports drinks, candy, and chips were additional items identified for further research. 

Why is this concerning?

PFAS, which don't naturally break down in the body, have been linked to certain cancers, reproductive and immune system issues, and asthma

"That's just the tip of the iceberg. This is only basically what we've been able to study," Carmen Messerlian, a professor of reproductive environmental epidemiology at Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health, told Business Insider last year. 

These chemicals are also found in a variety of everyday products other than food packaging, including nonstick cookware, cosmetics, clothes, and even toilet paper

What can be done to limit exposure to PFAS? 

Many U.S. states have begun passing laws to phase out forever chemicals in food packaging, and a number of private companies are doing the same, as detailed by Safer States

Buying from brands that avoid these chemicals is one way to protect yourself. 

And while the link between certain foods and higher levels of PFAS in the blood is still being investigated, there are health and financial benefits that come with reducing meat consumption and growing your own food.

That could be an enticing enough reason to make simple lifestyle changes that not only benefit you and the environment but also potentially reduce the risk of PFAS accumulation.

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