Human Health, Food and the Environment: Connections to Consider

Being healthy should be an incentive and motivation for all people but unfortunately, not many are aware of the importance of health, being trapped in the dictations and impositions of modern day life. Whether it be working at gyms to improve body functions, using Garden of Life health supplements for a stronger metabolism or visiting a psychologist for insights on a stable mental experience, modern day healthcare practices offer wonderful solutions for those interested in developing into healthier beings and leading better lives. The industry also provides excellent room and opportunity for research and investigation, boasting the continuing efforts in improving human health and contributing to the creation of a healthier and stronger human society.

Food is a central issue in the pursuit to improve human health and unfortunately, the current method of using pesticides to preserve the food has its downfalls. According to the recently published ‘Dirty Dozen’ report by The Environmental Working Group, 70% of all food produce sold in the US contains pesticide residues at alarming rates. Although the government continuously states that the pesticide levels on commercially available food are below dangerous levels and advises the consumers to consume organic foods, it is also confirmed by numerous sources that organic foods contain non-synthetic pesticides and the government’s claim regarding the low levels of synthetic pesticides on regular food is debatable. Considering that organic foods are 45% more expensive than regular foods, such an advice does not seem to resonate very well with the consumers either. On the farmers’ side, the use of pesticide also creates problems such as acute pesticide poisoning, leading to complications such as headaches, nausea, shortness of breath and seizures according to the nonprofit Farmworker Justice, who also warn about the long-term effects of such exposure, including infertility, neurological disorders and cancer.

Asthma is one of the more serious health complications that affects millions of people every day in their lives, especially in areas of high air pollution. A new study carried out at John’s Hopkins University revealed that higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids consumption found in foods such as salmon, sardines, lake trout, walnuts and flaxseeds, reduces symptoms of asthma in children exposed to indoor air pollution. When people think air pollution, they project an idea of irritants in the air such as smoke from smokers, cars, factories, but they forget that in their homes, they are polluting the air with “mould, building materials, home products, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and naturally occurring gases like radon” according to World Health Organization – all due to poor ventilation.

Omega-3 fatty acids generate byproduct molecules referred to as ‘pre-solving mediators’ that locate to lungs upon consumption and help the person with inflammation. The research team’s leader Dr. Emily Brigham also mentions that Omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils worsen asthma symptoms in children as some of the byproducts of such Omega-6 fatty acids such as leukotrienes are pro-inflammatory and therefore increase the severity and frequency of the symptoms. The U.S. dietary guidelines confirm the study’s finding about Omega-3 fatty acids and recommend that adults should consume eight ounces of seafood every week while children should be consuming a little less than that quantity for a healthy diet.

Another health complication related to air pollution is the issue of psychotic experiences experienced by teens as the correlation between the frequency of psychotic symptoms and air pollution was proven by the results of a study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal. Joanne Newbury, the lead author of the study, states that in conduct the study, the team used data obtained from more than 2,000 participants born in England and Wales in 1994 and 1995. The participants were asked whether if they ever heard voices not heard by others and whether if they ever thought that they were being followed or being spied on in private interviews, with 30% of such teens responding positively. The team then gathered hourly emissions from monitoring sites to assess the levels of pollution in the areas where the participants resided such as their homes and schools to prove that such psychotic experiences were indeed more common in teens who lived and studied in areas with higher air pollution. Newbury concludes that the correlation increases as one moves from the rural to the suburban and to the urban areas, with teens living in the most urban settings having 94% more chance of experiences psychotic episodes compared to those living in rural settings.