5 Health Risks of This Deadly Mold Toxin &
The 7 Foods with Highest Aflatoxin Contamination
You’d never knowingly put poison in your mouth, but when it comes to aflatoxin in food, what you don’t know is exactly what’s making you sick.
Aflatoxin is a dangerous plant mold byproduct so widespread the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies it as an “uncontrollable contaminant.”
Yet while aflatoxin is linked to multiple major health risks, and even deaths, you rarely hear about it in the news. 2012’s harvest, hitting shelves in the form of products this year, could change that forever.
Agricultural analysts are reporting that extreme drought conditions and weird weather patterns across the country have boosted aflatoxin levels in corn and nuts to record highs. With close to 70% of the American diet now corn-based and given our national love of peanut butter, a harvest full of contaminated crops is a serious problem.
Just how serious is the problem? In 2004, aflatoxin in grains killed 125 people in Kenya. It’s not a major stretch to think that the 2012 corn harvest could lead to the same situation here in the States this year as products hit the food shelves — but why wait for a deadly outbreak? Protect your health and learn all about the health risks of aflatoxin in food along with the foods you need to watch out for most.
5 Major Health Risks of Aflatoxin
Aflatoxin attacks your body’s core systems. It hurts cell growth, digestion and your immune system.
Sadly, doctors usually blame diseases caused by aflatoxin for your mysterious aches, pains and illnesses rather than pegging it as aflatoxin polluting your system in the first place. Don’t treat symptoms alone — pinpoint the cause and get real help for the health risks of aflatoxin outlined below.
Aflatoxin Health Threat #1: Cancer
Aflatoxin in food can give you cancer, particularly liver cancer. According to Dr. Hulda Clark, aflatoxin has the ability to cause and encourage growth of all kinds of cancers. And, she says, every cancer patient she has ever treated was found to be polluted with aflatoxins.
Aflatoxins alter your body on a cellular level and encourage cancerous cell growth. If you can avoid aflatoxins or cleanse them out of your system, you reduce your odds of getting cancer.
Aflatoxin Health Threat #2: Weakened Immune System
Afllatoxin works to suppress your immune system. Together with environmental toxins and drugs that weaken the immune system, aflatoxin opens the door for every other major disease to walk right in to your body. The worst offenders? Aflatoxin has a synergistic link to Hepatitis and has been shown to worsen the effects of HIV/AIDS.
Where you’ll truly want to question things is when you’ve been sick for a long time, no one else but you has the illness, and no one seems to know why you don’t feel well. Chronic aflatoxicosis — the name doctors use when they don’t want to flat out tell you bad food is to blame — is considered a subclinical disorder. This means doctors aren’t trained to look for it as a culprit in illness or blame aflatoxin in food for your chronic pain and health problems.
Aflatoxin Health Threat #3: Cuts Cellular Efficiency
Cellular efficiency governs how well your body processes proteins, lipids and oxygen. A key part of this is mitochondrial respiration, a miniscule function that nevertheless makes you feel like all the gas has been drained out of your system when it’s not working right. Aflatoxin lowers your mitochondrial respiration and causes your cells to stop working properly, laying the groundwork for everything from cardiovascular disease to organ failure.
Another big problem at the cellular level is the decrease in lipid processing. This leads to a fatty liver, and a fatty liver can’t process foods or clean the blood effectively. As a result, people in the throes of acute aflatoxin poisoning have jaundice, cirrhosis and other signs of liver failure.
Aflatoxin Health Threat #4: Wrecks Your Digestion
Aflatoxin disrupts your digestive system by blocking your body’s ability to absorb fats and fat soluble vitamins. This includes vitamins A, D, E, and K. Lose out on these nutrients and over time you’ll experience poor bone health, muscle weakness, poor vision, weak teeth and dry skin.
In the moment, exposure to aflatoxin will give you nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting. Eat a mega-dose of bad food and you can even expect to have seizures and internal bleeding. Keep eating that contaminated food? You may die, as at least 125 exposed villagers in Kenya proved in 2004.
Aflatoxin Health Threat #5: Stunts Kids Growth and Brain Development
Kids are especially vulnerable to aflatoxin in food since they’re still growing. Or they would be growing, if aflatoxins weren’t getting in the way. Long-term studies in Africa have shown that children exposed to aflatoxins experience stunting and neurological impairment.
This connects directly back to how aflatoxin in food blocks your gut from absorbing nutrients and cuts cellular efficiency. In kids, a starved system with no energy doesn’t put inches on their frame or build brain tissue and neural networks. As a result, not only will your kids end up small for their age, but they’ll also have less nimble brains and less responsive nerve networks.
7 Foods High in Aflatoxin
Aflatoxin in food comes from mold spores that grow on the plants — but there are certain plants that are much more susceptible to aflatoxin than others. Unfortunately, those plants are key staples of the American diet:
- Corn is likely the most common aflatoxin carrier you encounter, since it’s not just corn on the cob you have to worry about — everything made from corn is a problem. This includes cereal, chips, anything sweetened with corn syrup and anything fried in corn oil.
- Wheat is another leading carrier of aflatoxin, and gluten intolerance has been linked to aflatoxin allergies.
- Peanuts and aflatoxin are synonymous to food inspectors, who first started monitoring aflatoxin in peanuts in 1972. Raw nuts are a bigger concern than processed nuts, but you’ll want to be careful of all peanut butters and peanut oils.
- Dairy products and eggs are often overlooked as major sources of aflatoxin in food, but animals that feed on contaminated corn or wheat will pass aflatoxin on to human consumers.
- Dried fruits — particularly figs — can be loaded with mold spores. Check each piece carefully and cut risk by removing any that are discolored or obviously contaminated.
- Tree nuts, including pecans, pistachios and walnuts, are susceptible to aflatoxin contamination.
- Certain spices — such as black pepper and chilies — are aflatoxin sources. They can be infected with mold as they are dried, shipped, and stored.
Out of this list, aflatoxin in corn will be a huge issue here in 2013. Since so much of the 2012 harvest is infested with mold, elevators are mixing clean grain with polluted corn to lower the overall ratio of aflatoxin in the grains they sell and clear the FDA’s 20 parts per billion (ppb) standard.
This mixing is legal, but it increases the odds that severely infected kernels will be used in consumer goods and cereals. And, of course, grains that don’t make the cut for human consumption are often sold to animal feeders, who can use grains 10 or even 20 times the human limit. This practically guarantees ensures you pick up aflatoxin pollution even when you don’t think you’re eating corn.
Strangely enough, imported foods are less likely to have aflatoxin in the coming year than domestic goods. European food safety standards put the approved levels of aflatoxin in food at half — HALF — of what’s permitted in American foods. Then again, European lawmakers aren’t swamped with food industry lobbyists day in and day out like our own officials. Instead, they put human health first, and strictly control how much aflatoxin creeps into their food chain.
If you put your own health above lobbyist priorities and food maker profits, it’s time to quit accepting the FDA’s ruling that aflatoxin is an “uncontrollable pollutant” in food. You can eliminate aflatoxin in your body and stop its negative effects on you quickly and easily.
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Anderson, J and Young, L. Fat Soluble Vitamins. Colorado State University Extension. 2008 August.
Berry, E. Aflatoxin could effect 2013 corn. KPC News, Indiana. 2012 Oct 13.
Birt, N. Aflatoxin expert talks drought, corn blending, 2013 weather. Farm Journal Ag Web. 2012 Oct 26.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Outbreak of Aflatoxin Poisoning — Eastern and Central Provinces, Kenya, January — July 2004. 2004 Sept 3.
Clark, H. The Cure For All Diseases.
Davis, D. Aflatoxins. The Mold Missionary. 2007 Nov 30.
European Commission. Food contaminants — Aflatoxins. 2010 May 11.
Food and Drug Administration. Bad Bug Book — Aflatoxins. 2012 April 3.
Gupta, S. If we are what we eat, Americans are corn and soy. CNN.com. 2007 Sept 22.
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Effects of Aflatoxins on Human and Animal Health. 2009.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Office. Aflatoxins in Corn. 2012 August.
Lawley, R. Aflatoxins. Food Safety Watch. 2007 Nov.
Reuters. Latest threat to drought-stricken corn: Aflatoxin. Chicago Tribune. 2012 Aug 29.
Washington State University. Dog Food Aflatoxin Advisory. College of Veterinary Medicine. 2006 Jan 13.
Written By: Updated: November 27,2012