What do we know about microplastics in food?

Increasing risk of chronic disease

Research continues to demonstrate that long-term exposure to endocrine-disrupting microplastics increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetesTrusted Source and heart disease.

Experts associate higher blood levels of dioxins, phthalates, and BPs with pre-disease states of inflammationTrusted Source, impaired fasting glucose, insulin resistance, and obesity, significantly elevating the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.

Some researchTrusted Source suggests that exposure to these microplastics in food causes as much harm to a person’s health and raises their risk of chronic conditions to the same degree as following an unbalanced diet.

Impairing immune health

A 2020 reviewTrusted Source found that the increased inflammation induced by exposure to microplastics leads to poor gut health and, by extension, weakened immunity.

The gut plays an important roleTrusted Source in immunity, with 70–80% of the body’s immune cells being in the gut. This means that any condition that affects gut health interferes with immune health as well.

Persistent exposure to microplastics in the gut is toxic to immune cells, causing dysbiosis — a disruption to the gut microbiota — and leading to an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria.

Research associates dysbiosis with the development of such conditions as Parkinson’s disease.

Moreover, the surface of microplastics may harbor harmful bacteria that further compromise immune health.

How much exposure do we experience?

CREDIT: gettyimages

Microplastics are abundant in the environment, an outcome scientists attribute to the massive global production of plastics and widespread pollution.

Research suggests that an average person in the United States may consume over 50,000Trusted Source particles of microplastics from food alone per year.

This figure increases to an estimated 90,000 in those who regularly consume plastic-based bottled water, and to 120,000 when considering the inhalation of microplastics from non-food sources.

The authors of a 2019 studyTrusted Source identified an average of 20 microplastics per 10 grams of stool samples from eight participants.

These findings suggest that the amount of microplastics that people come into contact with and consume is much greater than experts once anticipated.

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