An overwhelming number of studies show that fruits and vegetables improve your health.
With one important exception!
The best types for your well-being are fresh fruits and vegetables. With an emphasis on the fresh.
Because if you eat canned items, you not only lose out on important nutrients – destroyed during processing – you end up consuming chemical additives that may drag your health down.
Much of the problem with eating canned food originates with a compound called bisphenol A (BPA), a member of a chemical group called phthalates. In many plastic products BPA is used as a plasticizer, meaning it makes plastic more flexible.
In cans that contain food or drinks, BPA is in the epoxy resin that lines the cans. Its function is to prevent corrosion of the metal in the can and keep the interior surface from cracking.
Health Dangers of BPA
Unfortunately, when BPA is in a can’s lining some of it inevitably leaches into the food and drink within. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that the amount of BPA that enters food is too little to be a significant risk to our health.
But many researchers disagree.
For instance, a study in Canada shows that when BPA enters the body it’s processed and metabolized in a way that encourages the formation of extra body fat.1 According to this research, the body converts BPA into another compound that can encourage cells to accumulate extra lipids (fats) and leads to the creation of new fat cells.
And this finding correlates with other studies that have linked BPA consumption to a higher risk of obesity.2
Ditch the Cans, Lose the Weight
According to scientists involved in this research, BPA is an “endocrine disruptor” – it mimics the hormome estrogen in a harmful way. This means that BPA functions as a destructive hormone, leading to changes in the body that make it more likely that you’ll gain weight.
So, if you can omit things like canned foods from your diet, and reduce your exposure to BPA and other similar chemicals, you may actually lose weight. And that’s exactly what happened in a three-week study at the California Polytechnic State University.
In this test, women who avoided BPA-containing products like canned food and foods in plastic packaging for 21 days lost weight as well as reduced the amount of BPA excreted in their urine.3
Admittedly, they didn’t lose a lot of weight—about one pound— but they weren’t cutting back on their food consumption or watching their diets at all. Just cutting back on BPA. And, in the control group, the women gained weight, about 3.5 pounds.
Another serious question surrounds the damage BPA and similar chemicals can cause to the nervous system and the brain. While not much research has been done on how BPA affects brain function in adults, studies indicate that it can impair brain development in children, modify the way the brain is structured and change children’s behavior – and not in a good way.4 Which leads Spanish researchers to warn that BPA is a “probable developmental neurotoxicant at low doses.”
Chemical companies have scrambled to find other chemical substitutes for BPA, but that might not be helpful. The FDA found that BPA substitutes (usually other phthalates) that companies sometimes add to the linings of cans affect your health in the exact same way BPA does!
Another common chemical—this one a preservative that’s added to many canned items and other processed foods—called propionic acid, can affect the bacteria in our digestive tracts that may increase the risk of autism.
Through a complicated process, researchers in Asia point out, this preservative causes changes in the chemicals produced by bacteria in the intestines that harm neurons in the brain’s hippocampus – an important memory center.5
Even Our Pets are at Risk
In other research, an investigation at the University of Missouri shows that even our dogs may be affected by the BPA in canned pet food (they didn’t test cats). And the Missouri researchers warn that both we and our pets may experience the same harmful health effects from BPA.6
“We share our homes with our dogs,” says researcher Cheryl Rosenfeld. “Thus, these findings could have implications and relevance to humans. Indeed, our canine companions may be the best bio-sentinels for human health concerns.”
So the evidence is clear: stick to fresh fruits and vegetables and ditch the cans as much as possible.
And one final tip: Laboratory tests at Harvard show that CoQ10 may offset some of the ill effects of BPA.
According to the researchers, CoQ10 can prevent the damage to mitochondria – the energy-producing organelles in cells – that has been linked to BPA.7 Since all of us are inevitably exposed to some degree to BPA and similar additives, supplementing with CoQ10 is probably a good idea. In addition, CoQ10 can help your heart in many ways.