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Harmful toxins found in food associated with birth defects

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According to a study led by researchers at the University of California in Riverside and San Diego, pregnant women eat foods that contain toxins that can be harmful to the fetus. The study, which was published in the July issue of Nutrition Journal, reveals that a number of foods such as salmon, tuna, canned food, tap water, caffeine, alcohol and some over the counter drugs , may cause birth defects.

Sarah Santiago, a Ph.D. student in psychology at UCR and the paper’s lead author, said that this is a unique study that highlights some of the unseen dangers of foods that have not so far been considered unhealthy for the fetus. Santiago explained that unlike alcohol and nicotine, which are known to be dangerous, tuna, canned foods, caffeine, along with a range of foods and beverages, are associated with a range of developmental defects that are not normally considered unhealthy. She added that they hope this study to draw attention to health care providers to keep pregnant women informed on the possible dangers of unhealthy habits.

The study, which was conducted on 200 Hispanic women, analyzed dietary habits during pregnancy using a food questionnaire. Almost all participants said they ate meat during pregnancy, especially fish: tuna, tilapia and salmon. Also, almost all said they consumed fruit but less than a quarter ate the recommended daily amount, which is more than one serving. Regarding the consumption of canned foods, three-fourths said they ate canned foods (vegetables, soup, fruit). Most participants said they consumed caffeinated beverages and 6% of them admitted that they had sometimes consumed alcohol during pregnancy. Regarding the drugs consumed, acetaminophen was the most cited drug.

The researchers from University of California – Riverside said that tuna, salmon, caffeinated beverages, sweetened desserts, alcoholic beverages are considered unhealthy due to environmental toxins that have harmful effects on child development. It seems that tuna contains methylmercury, which can lead to many developmental deficits involving verbal learning, attention, motor skills, etc.. Also, caffeine consumption during pregnancy was associated with fetal death, low birth weight and birth defects. Bisphenol A (BPA) which is found in metal cans can cause hyperactivity, problems with reproduction, etc., while polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in salmon have been associated with low birth weight, mental impairment, etc.. UC Riverside psychologists found that especially women with low socioeconomic status are at risk, because consuming  canned food is inversely correlated with the income.