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Mycotoxins in Your Food

Mycotoxins in Your Food

Don't Panic, They Have Always Been Here - Part 2
June 4, 2024

This is Part two of a two part discussion on the presence of mycotoxins and potential exposure. The first part simply introduced the environmental aspects of how mycotoxins are found and where they come from. 

Mycotoxins are often discovered in Urine or blood laboratory analysis. So the question is always if these compounds are from the environment or from the food we eat. As mycotoxins are derived from molds, we will discuss the mycotoxins that could possibly be associated with foods. This is often simply from improper storage and handling. 

This is a very deep subject. Many people all over the world are studying the presence, prevention and control of mycotoxins in foods. Thus, this conversation is very superficial and limited. If you suffer from respiratory or a host of other health related issues, this can help you start a path of investigation. 

Mycotoxins have been found in a large range of foods. Mostly in grains, beans, and nuts from trees. The following is a short list of foods that mycotoxins are associated with:

  • The grains include corn, wheat, barley, and cereals.
  • The beans include cocoa, coffee, and soybeans.
  • Nuts include peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios.
  • Other edibles include celery, grape juice, apples, cottonseed and sorghum

Aspergillus can produce a mycotoxin group called aflatoxins; there are four major types called B1, B2,G1,and G2. The Aflatoxin B1 is the most potent natural carcinogen known and is usually the major aflatoxin produced by the toxigenic strains. 

These toxins have been studied since the 1960s. It has been found to be associated with cereals, figs, oilseeds, nuts, and tobacco. The fungus is often most prevalent in drought conditions when plants are in a weakened state and more susceptible to fungal attack. 

Penicillium and Aspergillus both can produce Citrinin and are associated with certain foods:Wheat, oats, rye, corn, barley and rice have all been reported to sometimes contain Citrinin. Although citrinin can act as a nephrotoxic (creates rapid deterioration in kidney function) in animals, its acute toxicity varies. In people, the health effects are being studied but currently unknown. 

Penicillium and Aspergillus both can produce Ochratoxins and are associated with corn,barley, oats, rye, wheat, and coffee beans.Barley has a particularly high likelihood of contamination. The Ochratoxin family is a potent nephrotoxin. There are studies that indicate it is also a liver toxin, an immunosuppressant, a teratogen (effects a developing fetus) and a carcinogen

The molds Fusarium, Myrothecium, Phomopsis, Stachybotrys, Trichoderma, and others can produce a group of potent mycotoxins called Trichothecenes. This is a large group of metabolites (a compound created during the growth of the fungus) and is regularly found on barley, oats, rye, and wheat. 

The consumption of this mycotoxin can result in alimentary hemorrhage (gastrointestinal bleeding), vomiting. In the event of dermal contact, it can cause dermatitis. However, the symptoms produced by trichothecenes can impact almost every major system in the body. 

The point to remember is that acute levels of mycotoxins are rare in developed countries. But many mycotoxins survive processing into flours and meals. It is estimated that 25% of the world’s foods contain some degree of mycotoxins. 

This contaminant occurs because of growing conditions, shipping, handling and storage practices that are conducive for mold growth. You minimize your exposure to mycotoxins in foods by buying them as fresh as possible. Ensure that you store them properly in both humidity and temperature conditions. Try not to keep grain-based foods for an extended period of time.

It is reported that mycotoxins can be removed from the body by eating a diverse range of foods. For example, eat spices such as ginger and cinnamon. Include herbs such as basil and thyme. And eat leafy roughage like spinach and lettuce, foods like broccoli, garlic and onions. 

Keep in mind that mycotoxins normally enter the body through ingestion. However, they can also enter through inhalation and direct dermal contact. All of this may sound scary, but remember these contaminants have been with us for a very, very long time.

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