The Grapevine

Home-Cooked Meals: Why They Are Healthier Than Processed Foods

Some people may prefer eating at restaurants on Friday nights because the food is better. But a new study may make you want to stay at home for dinner and enjoy the night with your family, friends or your pets. 

Researchers at nonprofit organization Silent Spring Institute found that eating outside of the house increases the exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, called PFAS. These man-made chemicals have been linked to cancer, fertility problems, thyroid disease, immune suppression and low birth weight. 

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, suggests people should eat more home-cooked meals than in restaurants or fast food chains. Foods prepared in the house commonly have healthier ingredients and less PFAS.

PFAS are widely used in various consumer products, including paints, fire-fighting foams, cleaning products, cookware and food containers. In the study, foods from restaurants appeared highly contaminated with PFAS that come from food packaging.

Silent Spring researchers analyzed the diets of more than 10,100 participants who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched NHANES to monitor the health and nutritional trends across the U.S. 

For the study, the researchers asked participants about their meals in the past 24 hours, seven days, 30 days and entire year. They also took blood samples to check presence of PFAS chemicals.

Results showed that the people who commonly eat at home had significantly lower levels of PFAS. However, those who ate more frequently at restaurants had higher levels of the chemicals in their blood. 

"This is the first study to observe a link between different sources of food and PFAS exposures in the U.S. population," Laurel Schaider, study co-author and an environmental chemist at Silent Spring, said in a press release. "Our results suggest migration of PFAS chemicals from food packaging into food can be an important source of exposure to these chemicals." 

The findings highlight the benefit of avoiding foods that are commonly stored in a packaging, according to Kathryn Rodgers, study co-author and a staff scientist at Silent Spring. She added the same food packaging may also contain other harmful chemicals of concern, such hormone-disrupting compounds called BPA and phthalates.

"The general conclusion here is the less contact your food has with food packaging, the lower your exposures to PFAS and other harmful chemicals," Rodgers said. "These latest findings will hopefully help consumers avoid these exposures and spur manufacturers to develop safer food packaging materials."

Food PFAS Researchers nonprofit organization Silent Spring Institute found that eating outside of the house increases the exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, called PFAS. Pixabay

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