Ultraprocessed, Quick Meals Should be Avoided by Expectant Mothers
According to study published last month in the journal Environmental International, you might want to reconsider reaching for a premade pastry or making a hamburger run if you’re pregnant.
Strangely, the report focuses on the things that come into contact with food before it is consumed, rather than the actual food itself—that is, fries, hamburgers, shakes, and cakes.
According to research, food can come into contact with phthalates, a class of chemicals related to plastics, from wrapping, packing, and even plastic gloves used by food workers. Chemicals that are taken during pregnancy have the potential to enter the bloodstream, cross the placenta, and enter the bloodstream of the developing fetus.
Researchers found that the chemical can lead to oxidative stress and an inflammatory cascade in the developing embryo. According to earlier research, phthalate exposure during pregnancy may raise the risk of low birth weight, premature delivery, and mental health issues in children, including ADHD and autism.
The authors noted that this is the first study including pregnant women to demonstrate a connection between increased exposure to phthalates and diets richer in ultraprocessed foods.
“When moms are exposed to this chemical, it can cross the placenta and go into fetal circulation,” said senior author Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a UW Medicine pediatrician and researcher at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
Data from the 1,031 pregnant Memphis, Tennessee residents who were engaged in the Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Childhood (CANDLE) research cohort between 2006 and 2011 were used in this analysis. Urine samples taken during the second trimester of pregnancy were tested for phthalates.
The researchers discovered that, on average, 38.6% of the participants’ diets consisted of ultraprocessed foods, ranging from 10% to 60%. Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, one of the most prevalent and hazardous phthalates, was shown to be 13% more concentrated in diets with each 10% increase in the amount of ultraprocessed intake. The study’s female participants provided urine samples from which the phthalate concentrations were determined.
The majority of ultraprocessed foods, according to the researchers, are made from food-extracted ingredients like oils, sugar, and starch, but they have undergone such drastic changes from processing and the addition of chemicals and preservatives to improve their appearance or shelf life that it is difficult to distinguish them from their original form. These consist of things like boxed cake mixes, soft drinks, and packed hamburger buns and french fries, for instance.
When it comes to fast food, the primary sources of exposure may be the gloves that staff wear as well as the equipment or tools used for preparation, serving, and storage. According to lead author Brennan Baker, a postdoctoral researcher in Sathyanarayana’s group, both fresh and frozen products might be impacted by these sources.