Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Jerry

The 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines recommended a shift of food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet. They even included is a 100% plant based adaptation for people who choose to take recommendations of zero intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, trans-fat to their logical conclusions. But for those at risk for cardiovascular disease, the official recommendation is to limit cholesterol intake to under 200 mg per day. Avoiding eggs and brains, the two foods with the most cholesterol, will help achieve this target (see also here, here, here). Any intake of transfat, saturated fat, and cholesterol above zero has been found to increase bad cholesterol (LDL), so the Institute of Medicine has not even set safe upper limits. The LDL level of cholesterol in the blood may be the best indicator of heart disease risk. The serum total cholesterol in our blood needs to be lowered to the 150 area (around the level of the average pure vegetarian) to stop plaque buildup. Under the current guidelines total cholesterol is recommended to be under 200, but many who had heart attacks were in the “optimal” range; this suggest that the guidelines need to be revised. Mercury concentrations in 55% of tuna in 3 national brands have been found to be above the US EPA safety limit for human consumption (see also here). The EPA safety limit for mercury may not be sufficiently specific to completely prevent fetal risk for women considering getting pregnant, though. A recent test found that a single serving of tuna would put women of child bearing age over the EPA mercury safety limit. Mercury has also been found in high fructose corn syrup. The fish oil found in stores was found to contain PCBs. Other foods found to be high in PCBs: fish fillets, eggs, and dairy. Fish in general is especially high in all dioxins. Putrescine has been found in levels exceeding safety limits (40 mg/meal) in canned fish (sardines and tuna). AGEs are found in high levels chicken, bacon, fish, and hot dogs; the safety limit for AGEs is unknown but there have been studies that suggest the cutting one’s intake in half may extend one’s lifespan. Phthalates have an unknown safety limit and are found in primarily in chicken and eggs; when consumed during pregnancy, they may affect genital development. The national food standard guidelines for fecal bacteria on ready to eat food is 30,000; sushi has been found to exceed this limit. Similarly, one bucket of fast food chicken may exceed the EPA safety limit for arsenic in a glass of water by 2000%. Creatine supplements have been found to contain organic contaminants and heavy metals that exceed the safety limits recommended by the European Food Safety Authority. And American vegetarians live longer than even healthy meat eaters so there may be no safe upper limit for meat consumption. Chinese cinnamon contains the compound coumarin, which may be toxic to the liver. Caffeine has been found to be safe in moderate amounts (up to 10 cups of coffee a day is okay for most). The safe upper limit for broccoli consumption is about 100 cups a day (see also here). Ayurvedic supplements have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals, and arsenic, lead, and mercury levels in triphala have been found to exceed EPA limits. Antioxidant vitamin supplements should be avoided. Kelp consumption has resulted in iodine toxicity and should be used only in tiny amounts. Apple juice (non-organic) was tested and found to contain fungal toxins at levels exceeding the World Health Organization safety guidelines. Benzene levels in soda were found to exceed safety levels set for drinking water. Acrylamide in french fries has been found at levels exceeding certain safety limits by 30,000%.

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