Non Nutritive Components UPDATES

Dioxins —

Dioxins are polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, formed from two benzene rings joined by 2 oxygen bridges, forming an aromatic ether. These are environmental pollutants and are teratogens, mutagens and possibly carcinogens. They are fat soluble and accumulate in mammalian tissues , giving them a prolonged biological life.

Chlorine atoms are attached at 8 different sites at positions 1-4 and 6-9. There are more than 75 cogeners of dioxin, where dioxin have chlorine at 2,3,7 and 8 positions there is enhanced toxicity.

Dioxins originate from the incineration of chlorine containing substances such as polyvinyl chloride, in the bleaching of paper and from natural events e.g. volcanoes and forest fires. Open burning of wood, waste, and diesel emissions are important sources of dioxin. Dioxins are to be found in cigarette smoke.

Dioxins enter the human body by eating food especially fish, meat and dairy products. The fat solubility of dioxin holds dioxin in the food chain. Dioxins are an occupational risk during herbicide use. Dioxin may be transposed to children through breast milk. This persists for 6-8 years. The lipid accumulation of dioxins is a major factor in the accumulative toxicity of these substances with a half life of 8 years.

Toxicity includes

  • Increase tumour incidence
  • Developmental abnormalities
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Immune problems
  • Diabetes
  • Altering the male to female ratio in babies in an at risk population.
  • Skin lesions

Disinfectant – Fertility —

Nature reports that a scientist , Patricia Hunt has noted that mice in contact with two compounds used in cleaning homes offices and hospitals develop birth defects and reduced fertility. Two chemicals are quaternary ammonium compounds ADBAC (n-alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride) and DDAC (didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride) .

Similarly bisphenol A causes egg defects.

Here is a chance to develop a kind way to remove mice and possible rats from an environment.

Does this have implications for humans.

News ( 2008 ) Lab disinfectant harms mice fertility Nature vol 453, p 964

Food Additives —

The European Food Safety Authority has rejected suggestions in a study by researchers at Southampton University last year of a link between hyper activity in children and two mixtures of food colours and the preservative sodium benzoate (Lancet 20O7; vol 370; pp 1560-7).The study, which was commissioned by the U K Food Standards Agency.

After a request from the European Commission, the Parma based authority asked its panel on food additives, flavourings, processing aids, and food contact materials to assess the study’s findings that the colourings and preservative in the diet led to more hyperactivity in 3 year old and 8-9 year old children.

In its report, published on 14 March, the panel listed its many reservations about the study’s findings. It pointed to the lack of consistency in the results with respect to the age and sex of the children and the type of observer (parent, teacher, or independent assessor); the unknown clinical relevance of the effects measured; and the lack of information on any dose-response relation.

The panel also maintained that the fact that mixtures were studied made it impossible to identify the effects of individual additives and noted the absence, of a plausible biological mechanism that might explain the possible link between behaviour and the consumption of colours. As a result, the authority, which advises the European Union on food safety, maintained that there is no basis for changing present recommendations on the acceptable daily intake of the food colours or sodium benzoate.

The report is at

This is either a comment on the original study, the Lancet for publishing the report or the UK FSA. Or that the EU authority already had entrenched views on the topic and could not be convinced by any argument. .

Functional Foods —

Functional foods are modified foods that claim to improve health quality of life or well being.

To many these are a cause for concern.

The producers of these products seize on some half fact, utilise this to sell a well priced product to a gullible public. My wife and I have raised cholesterol concentrations and for 6 months religiously took a stanol containing yoghurt with no change in our cholesterol concentrations .

There are more than 200 different functional foods which claim all manner of health wonderments.

They include

Enrichment with phytosterol-stanols to affect low density lipoprotein cholesterol

Bioactive peptides blood pressure

Enrichment with melantonin sleep inducemen

Omega 3 fatty acids depression, triglycerides, joints

Beta glucan blood sugar and low density lipoprotein cholesterol

Prebiotics bowel function

Probiotics diarrhoea

Calcium and vitamin D bones

Protein or bioactive peptides obesity, appetite

The EU is now starting to look at this hotch potch of claims and conducting evaluations of the products. A new drug has to be tested in a series of very demanding tests. A new food just turns up on the shelves.

The European Food Safety Authority is now establishing serious requirements for nutritional claims.

About time.

De Jonge et al BMJ 2007, vol 334, 1037-1039


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