What IS In Bread? Much is good but some isn’t…Think Food Additives!
Bread…it is called the ‘staff of life’ but if you haven’t heard this yet, to discover what is in bread is going to really frustrate you. I mean after all, shouldn’t the bread we eat be free of components that harm health? Well, in these countries, Canada, the European Union, United Kingdom, and Brazil you do not have to worry about eating baked goods from flours treated with a food additive that has been shown to affect the kidney and cause tumors in test animals. It is just flat out alarming that some countries have banned this food additive, potassium bromate, but in the United States it is still allowed. I mean, for goodness sakes, REALLY?
After years working as an Industrial Hygienist carcinogens are pretty much ubiquitous in our environment so why put something, anything, into a food that we eat daily that is a suspect human carcinogen? Does that seem reasonable to you? Apparently in the above countries it is not. So it begs the question then, why is it allowed in our bread and baked products in the United States?
What Grabs Your Attention? Cute little hamsters or cute little babies?
Okay, yeah, I know I said above, ‘test animals’ are getting cancer. Here is something more significant. In California since January 1, 1990, the offending chemical potassium bromate has been considered a carcinogen and their Proposition 65 requires a cancer warning label on products using this additive as a conditioner in flour products. What does that say to you? The reasoning for potassium bromate becoming a Prop 65 chemical is based on studies their health professionals felt were too compelling to ignore. Those studies are listed in this following report from the California Proposition 65 announcement to put potassium bromate into the list: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65/CRNR_notices/admin_listing/intent_to_list/noilbromate.html
And another alarming fact is identified from the research branch of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). In their classification system for identifying carcinogens, this food additive has been designated as a Class 2B carcinogen.
“Potassium bromate is possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B).”
And this reference further states something else I find significant, that “…potassium bromate causes renal tumors through a mechanism involving oxidative damage.” (See: http://www.inchem.org/documents/iarc/vol73/73-17.html) This is thought to be why the kidney’s of the test animals suffer damage, its oxidative damage. Think oxidative stress, we’ve all heard of that, right? Hmmm…if the kidney is suffering from oxidative damage what other organs are also being affected by the oxidative stress this chemical poses?
What Can WE Learn About Potassium Bromate
I have for several years known about bromated flour and its effect on human health. I started my research into this through information provided by Dr. David Brownstein, a renowned expert in thyroid health and a holistic physician. He taught that the bromine in flour is negatively affecting thyroid health which was why I found him initially. You see potassium bromate breaks down into bromine when the product is cooked. But bromine, isn’t much better. It exists as an element on the Periodic Table but here is what a data sheet from Lenntech says about health effects of bromine exposure:
“The most important health effects that can be caused by bromine-containing organic contaminants are malfunctioning of the nervous system and disturbances in genetic materials. But organic bromines can also cause damage to organs such as liver, kidneys, lungs and milt and they can cause stomach and gastrointestinal malfunctioning. Some forms of organic bromine, such as ethylene bromine, can even cause cancer. Inorganic bromines are found in nature, but whereas they occur naturally humans have added too much through the years. Through food and drinking water humans absorb high doses of inorganic bromine. These bromines can damage the nervous system and the thyroid gland.”
The mechanism involves iodine being pushed back into circulation and then leaves the body as waste because when the more chemically active bromine is present it fills the thyroid and other iodine-rich organs like breast-tissue so that the iodine can no longer gain cellular access. By the way, the treatment for this is similar to how we reduce blood concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. In that situation, oxygen in higher doses administered in a hyperbaric chamber drives off the CO. By dosing with higher levels of iodine it drives out the bromine because the thyroid wants iodine not bromine which has no biological function in the body.
The problem is we have a serious iodine deficiency in many parts of the world which is compounding this situation and no doubt other health issues as well. Potassium bromate, reduced to bromine through the baking process coupled with a significant iodine deficiency creates a condition for the bromine to in essence poison the thyroid. Who would have known that eating baked goods could over time have such a negative health effect?
Here is the BOTTOM LINE!
The thyroid is critical in the brain’s development. THAT is very important! It has been established that if mom, while carrying her infant during her pregnancy is deficient in iodine, then the baby’s brain development is also affected. Iodine is a primary nutrient in thyroid functionality and Dr. Brownstein states that bromine is taken up by the cells of the thyroid so that the very necessary nutrient needed by the thyroid, iodine, is prevented from accessing the cells. And iodine affects the thyroid’s ability to produce thyroxine and other necessary hormones which effects the immune system, heart health, and breast tissue health, to name just a few. The fact that the thyroid’s function affects brain health quite literally jumped off the page at me while doing my research. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19178515)
Dr. Brownstein said this “If the body has too much bromine and not enough iodine, thyroid hormone can be brominated instead of iodinated. Studies have shown that the breasts and other tissues that normally store iodine can accumulate bromine instead of iodine. Unfortunately, every one of the more than 1000 patients that I have tested for bromine has tested positive. This includes sick as well as healthy patients.” Good heavens I wonder how much of this could be an underlying reason for breast cancer. I know it’s kind of mind-boggling, isn’t it!!! (http://drdavidbrownstein.blogspot.com/2010/11/epidemic-of-bromine-toxicity.html)
What Others Are Also Saying
Laurence Knight of the BBC News service made an interesting point regarding how bromine is used in combination with other chemicals. This is what often poses the serious health effects. After all, bromine exists naturally in many bodies of water, like the Dead Sea and is ‘harvested’ from it. Here is an interesting quote from this BBC article written by him addressing everything from brominated vegetable oils used as emulsifiers in sodas, additives in fuels, and fire retardants.
Regarding fire retardants he stated,
“The retardants are organic molecules – an entirely different class of chemical from bromide salts – that can take years to decompose. And although they should be tied up inside plastics and other materials, when they do get free they tend to accumulate through the food chain – meaning top predators such as humans face a particular risk of these chemicals slowly building up in our bodies.” (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29376436)
And that, my friends, poses one of the critical unknowns in this troubling issue. Will this build up in our bodies in time become a cellular disruptor and DNA modifier? Frankly, and certainly my own opinion, I don’t think the risk is worth the discovery some ten, fifteen, or thirty years down the road when we have passed away and our children are then facing a cancer diagnosis. See what I mean here?
And remember there is evidence of damaged DNA from the animal studies. Animals are used because their life cycles are shorter than ours and so we can postulate an algorithm on that as compared to human years. Think of it this way, one dog year is equal to 7 human years, right. So we can develop a possible outcome for humans who we don’t run tests on. What we learn from the test data involving animals affords greater insight. I know it’s hurtful to think of the sacrifice these little creatures are making which is another whole subject for another day, right? My point? No doubt the IARC calls potassium bromate a “possible human carcinogen” because of these test animal results.
What’s a Good Mom and Dad supposed to do?
You are already doing it by taking the time to become informed.
Here are FOUR steps you can follow to be in more control.
FIRST: Be conscious of where potassium bromate is used in our everyday world and foods. Here are a few examples:
- Part of a family of fire retardants so it can be found in furniture, clothing, mattresses, baby furniture, and computers
- Peanut butter
- Baked flour products
- Barley (think beer production)
- Many sodas use a brominated vegetable oil (BVO). Gatorade used to, I’m not sure about Mtn Dew. Pepsi and Coca-Cola took it out sometime ago after Change.org gathered 200,000 signatures protesting BVO use
- Deli meats and fish
SECOND: Read the labels. I have to say that if a baked good doesn’t say that it is made from non-bromated flour then I assume it has potassium bromate. This may be an over the top approach and, yes, at times it has been hard to exclusively follow. Nevertheless, as often as I’m able I want to err on the side of safety when it comes to our food choices and avoid foods with bromine components in them.
THIRD: When doing your own baking, use flours that are not bromated. I don’t buy just any flour. I purchase King Arthur Flour when I bake. There could be others, but this is one company that takes pride in providing the best flour they can. And for them that meant not adding potassium bromate. See what they say here in this statement from a white paper on their site.
“Given all of the health risks involved with the use of bromates in bread production we have always felt that baking is much better when you use quality ingredients, the most important being an un-bromated flour.” http://www.kingarthurflour.com/professional/bromate.html
FOURTH: Take the time to investigate the extensive list created by the Environmental Working Group. They have put up a list of 84 different products produced by food companies like Hormel, Weis Kaiser, and Goya that have detectable potassium bromate in products when they get to the store shelves.
One to the points they have made that rings true with my experience as an Industrial Hygienist is that “Models of the relationship between DNA damage and potassium bromate show a consistent low-dose linear response, which means that the amount of DNA damage observed is proportional to the amount of potassium bromate consumed.” In layman terms please? It just means that the more potassium bromate eaten in our foods the greater the potential for health issues from damaged DNA. Here is their article on the subject of potassium bromate: http://www.ewg.org/research/potassium-bromate
The Good NEWS? You are in control of what you eat!
I’m hoping you feel as I do about this. Our children already have a myriad of health challenges from chromosome deletions to chromosome additions, compromised immune systems, a myriad of brain anomalies from microcephaly to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and learning disabilities like dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dyscalulia, and dyslexia. Why in the world would we add a chemical that has been proven to disrupt and damage DNA into the delicate balance of their brain’s architecture? I intend to continue to monitor my family’s food so I can maximize as much as possible providing them foods that truly enrich their lives, and don’t present an insidious risk because of the food additives it may contain.
How about you? Are you convinced that there is a problem with baked goods and other food items that probably contain or is made from brominated flour? Things like breaded fish or breakfast sandwiches in the freezer aisle? Is there enough evidence? California is requiring a cancer warning label on foods containing potassium bromate. Many other countries around the world have banned the use of this chemical in their foods. The IARC has designated potassium bromate as possibly carcinogenic to humans when there is substantive evidence it is a carcinogen to animals.
Are you convinced there is a problem? Please share with us what you think? And if you agree or disagree let us know. Will you make some dietary changes? Let us know if you are finding this difficult and what your solutions have been. And if I can help I hope you will Contact Me Here.
Or leave your comments here. Your thoughts and experience are most valuable!
I look forward to hearing from you.