Cancer crisis concern lost among students


Nikol Slatinska

Cancer is on the rise worldwide, with the number of cases expected to increase by approximately 70 percent over the next 20 years, according to a report from the World Health Organization. It is no question that the biggest preventable factors for the incline are tobacco consumption and obesity-related problems caused by processed, chemically enhanced and fatty foods. From the nation-wide consumption of processed foods arises the question of whether or not food additives contribute to the danger, and why people continue to eat foods that they know are potentially dangerous.
Additives come in many forms and serve different functions, the most common ones being to keep foods’ shelf lives longer and maintain their color and texture. They can be put directly into products or get their through animal growth hormones. Various compounds such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), chemicals used to make certain plastics, can even get in food from its packaging, according to Joshua Lambert, a professor of food science at Pennsylvania State University. Lambert said it’s important to note that the term “additives” doesn’t refer one specific type of supplement.
“Food additives is an enormous category of things and the only thing some of them have in common is that they have been added to foods,” Lambert said. “So even if one does have a negative health effect, the results can’t be extrapolated to all food additives even though people do that routinely.”
He said even though the media tends to focus on things like artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, there are a lot of food additives used that cause no concern among the public. Some examples are thickeners, including corn starch and Vitamin C, which is often added as a preservative to protect the color and flavor of a food. Emulsifiers are used to keep oil and water mixtures, and they’re often made of natural sources like soy, milk and eggs.
When it comes to whether the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or food production companies are responsible for the increased use of food additives, Lambert thinks consumers and food companies have both played a role in the increased use of food additives.
“People want food that tastes good, looks good and has some shelf life. For example, people want to buy pre-made chocolate milk that doesn’t separate, so dairies add stabilizers to keep it mixed,” Lambert said. “Food companies are in the business of making foods, and because it’s a business, they look for ways to sell products, keep products from spoiling in transit and on the shelf, and ways to reduce the costs of making things.”
Lambert does, however, believe that the FDA, which is responsible for mandating all food additives safe before use, does not catch everything through its food testing process. Because most testing is performed on animals that don’t match perfectly with people, there is a possibility of something making it through the cracks and having to be removed later after it’s been used by the public and a new problem has come to light. Simultaneously, those animal models sometimes indicate toxicity where there really is none. For instance, the artificial sweetener, saccharin, was shown to cause bladder cancer in rats, but follow-up studies showed that the effect only happened in rats, not mice or guinea pigs, and that there was no increased risk in people.
Although food additives have been proven to be not as potentially cancerous as they seem, many popular foods, including processed meats, soda, “diet” foods and refined sugars and flours are still harmful, according to Natural News.
So if this is true and known by Americans, why are the cancer rates continuing to rise? Sophomore Carmen Ramirez said she likes to enjoy what she’s eating without worrying about how it will affect her later.
“As someone who has already faced the potential consequences of cancer, I know that you can come back from it, that you can always heal,” Ramirez said. “Also, as someone who is comfortable with body weight even though I know I’m not at the optimal weight, I’m okay with my weight fluctuating up and down the scale.”
[box title=”Food additives banned in countries outside of the U.S.” style=”glass” box_color=”#2bb64c” title_color=”#000000″ radius=”0″]— Blue #1 food coloring is banned in Norway, Finland and France. Blue #1 and Blue #2 can be found in many different candies, cereals, drinks and pet food in the U.S. — Yellow #5 (Tartazine) and Yellow #6 food colorings are banned in Norway and Austria, and can be found in the popular U.S. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese packaged meal. These food additives can lead to genotoxicity, the deterioration of the cell’s genetic material. — Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is used as an emulsifier in soda and sports drinks. This additive is banned in more than 100 countries because it contains bromine, a chemical whose vapors can be toxic, according to ABC News.[/box] Ramirez is a self-described snacker, saying she gets constant cravings and often just eats because she feels like it. She said she has so many favorite foods, it would be easier for her to pick out the ones she doesn’t like. To her, tobacco use seems like a bigger problem than unhealthy eating habits because someone can always change theirs, but smoking is an addiction.
“I think because food addictions are a bit easier to come back from, if you find a form of exercise you love or workout with a friend it makes it a lot easier to come back from bad habits,” Ramirez said. “But with smoking, you can’t really reverse the damage once it’s done.”
That ideology has been easier said than done for Ramirez, who has tried to change her eating habits on multiple occasions but has always had trouble sticking to them. She said she sometimes thinks about how her choices will affect her in the future and makes sure to include some healthy food in order to get all the necessary vitamins, but besides that she mostly eats whatever she wants.
Like Ramirez, sophomore Shay Wagner finds her weakness in high calorie foods like bread, cheese and red meats, which can all be found in her refrigerator at any given time. She said she never really puts much thought into their potentially cancerous effects, always using the excuse that because she’s a teenager it’s okay for her to eat processed foods. But for some odd reason, she too finds smoking to be an addiction that should be stopped.
“I hate the whole concept of smoking, and I think it’s really glamorized by the media,” Wagner said. “So if I were to ever see one of my family members smoking, I would probably try to say something about it, since it can do so much damage to your body.”
Wagner said the reasoning behind her choosy ideals is that she grew up eating unhealthy food and never looked down upon it until she got older and learned about what it can do. As for smoking, she never had the issue as a young child of being surrounded by someone constantly lighting a cigarette, making it easier to distinguish that smoking was bad. Fortunately, Wagner has acknowledged and is trying to do something about her health-threatening ways.
“I’m honestly trying to change [my eating habits], but it’s a lot harder than you would think since my family doesn’t really plan on changing their diet anytime soon,” Wagner said. “I’ve been drinking a lot more water and cutting down on all the junk food because I’ve been learning about all the harm an unhealthy diet can do.”
What do you do to stay healthy? Leave a comment below!