In spite of the immense gains and benefits of westernization, it is not without its drawbacks, some of which pose considerable health risks to us. Myriads of medical conditions such as cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders were uncommon in third-world countries a few decades back. However today, statistics have shown that the scope of these diseases has assumed global dimensions.
Understandably, the food industry is not left out of the trend even as consumer interest is rapidly shifting from fresh food items to processed canned products such as canned beverages, soups, drinks, tomato paste etc.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a toxic chemical contained in the lining of cans and has the potential to leach into the food content during microwaving or while washing with harsh detergents. Tin and aluminium are also toxic metals mostly used in making metal cans. If not handled properly, they can also leach into the food and cause health problems like skin and eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Discussed here are some of the potential dangers you may be exposing yourself to as you consume more of these canned foods:
1. Breast cancer
A study done in 2009 concluded that BPA can cause neoplastic changes in human breast epithelial cells thereby increasing breast cancer risk. For patients already on chemotherapy for breast cancer, BPA was shown to reduce the sensitivity of tumour cells to chemotherapy.
2. Brain tumours
In China, a research conducted found that individuals with elevated urinary BPA levels were almost twice as likely to suffer from meningioma (tumour of the brain covering that can compress on the brain leading to numerous neurological deficits) compared with individuals with lower levels of BPA.
This is marked by a potentially fatal paralysis that may arise from improperly canned food items encouraging the growth of Clostridium botulinum. This bacterium forms toxin-producing spores which are responsible for this lethal disease. However, the practice of good hygiene significantly reduces the risk of botulism.
4. Reproductive problems
Several human studies have established a link between BPA in canned foods and reproductive problems. A research carried out on workers in BPA factories in China discovered that they had four times higher risk than their counterparts of experiencing erectile dysfunction and decreased libido ( sexual urge). BPA has also been linked to testicular cancer and oligozoospermia (reduced sperm count)
BPA has been found to increase the risk of asthma in offspring of women with high urine BPA concentrations. Also, a research carried out in 2013 by Columbia Centre for Children’s Environmental Health reported that children with high BPA levels between ages 3-5 yrs stood a greater risk of developing asthma later on
BPA in canned foods alters neural mechanisms that regulate appetite thereby leading to increased risk of obesity and its attendant medical complications such as stroke, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, cancers, liver disease and so on.
Owing to the estrogen-like effects of BPA, it binds to estrogen receptors to alter glucose and lipid metabolism. In adults, it disrupts insulin release and promotes resistance to the action of insulin – a body hormone that helps to drive glucose into the cells for subsequent breakdown and utilization.
8. Gastrointestinal problems
After ingestion of significant quantities of tin in canned food, gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea were reported.
9. Adverse pregnancy outcomes
An in vitro study found that exposure of placental cells to low doses of BPA may lead to such problems in pregnancy as preeclampsia, preterm delivery, Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) and recurrent miscarriages.
10. Heart diseases
A cross-sectional study done in 2010 revealed that patients with very high urinary levels of BPA had a 33% higher risk of developing Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Similarly, a Korean study performed in 2014 established a strong link between BPA contained in the plastic lining of canned drinks and hypertension.