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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Randy

Research studies, including the largest prospective nutrition study ever, continue to suggest that industrial toxins such as dioxins, PCBs, methylmercury, and arsenic in chicken and eggs may increase the risk of cancers such as breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, penis cancer, and lymphoma. The high-temperature cooking (such as frying) of chicken can create cancer-causing compounds, which may help explain why those consuming fried chicken may be at higher prostate cancer risk (and inflammation). Barbequed chicken may be carcinogenic; and cured chicken as in deli meat may contain carcinogenic nitrosamines. Researchers study the connection between cancer and chicken viruses by looking at poultry workers, who seem more prone to cancer and neurological diseases.

Eating chicken and eggs may also negatively affect emotional, mental, vascular, and hormonal health.

Chicken consumption seems particularly linked to weight gain. Genetic manipulation of chickens has led to clinically obese birds, which may play a role in the human obesity epidemic due to not only their fat content, but a potential obesogenic virus that is transferable to (and among) humans.

The 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines suggested consuming less than 200mg of cholesterol per day for anyone at high cardiovascular disease risk. Chicken is a leading cholesterol source (see here, here, and here), and in some ways may be just as harmful as red meat. Comparing key measures, vegetables and fruit appear more cost-effective in nutrients than chicken and other meats. U.S. taxpayer subsidies, however, for towards lowering the price of chicken and other meats. Some studies have suggested saturated fat from animal products like chicken or processed foods is not harmful (see also here), but these studies are misleading. Intake of saturated fat is not only associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but also higher bacterial vaginosis risk and diabetes risk (see also here).

Parasitic worms found in fish fed to chickens may cause allergic reactions in chicken consumers. Alkylphenols, endocrine disruptors that can be found in chicken and fish, can worsen allergies in general. Chicken is deficient in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber, and may contain excessive salt, AGEs, harmane (a neurotoxin which may cause tremors), heme iron, arachidonic acid, banned medications and pesticides, glycotoxins (which may be linked with increased rates of Alzherimer’s), paralysis-causing bacteria (that can cross-contaminate other foods and surfaces) phosphate additives which may increase Campylobacter bacteria contamination risk, and can increase uric acid production,. Chicken is also associated with endotoxemia, Salmonella food poisoning (the meat industry is legally allowed to sell food contaminated with Salmonella), C. difficile, and Listeria. Fecal contamination of chicken presents a food safety risk, including human urinary tract infections. The overuse of antibiotics in chicken is creating superbugs (like MRSA), even in organic chicken.


Image Credit: Magone / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.

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