The Dangerous Synergy of Environmental Toxins (and What You Can Do About It)

Science doesn’t usually lend itself to studying the interaction of different components and how they might have additive or multiplicative effects. I understand that. You have to reduce things down to their individual parts to really study them deeply. But we’ve also missed a lot with this reductionist approach.

Today, I want to highlight important research I discovered while reading the most important wellness and nutrition book I’ve read in the last five years (or more): Anticancer. Everyone needs to buy and read this book ASAP.

The good news is, there’s a positive synergy among the healthy compounds found in vegetables, fruits, spices, herbs, etc. The bad news is there’s a negative synergy among toxic chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and more. In a modern world, your goal should be to minimize the negative synergy of environmental toxins, and maximize the positive synergy of foods. 

Negative Synergy

You will NEVER be exposed to a single toxic chemical in isolation. Why? Because there’s an estimated 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States, and that number is growing every day. On top of that, infants are exposed to dozens of environmental chemical pollutants in their mother’s blood before they’re even born – one study detected 287 different chemicals among 10 newborns.

A single lethal chemical is obviously important to avoid. But there can be dangerous interactions between chemicals that otherwise might be non-lethal. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that individual exposure to sublethal toxins pales in comparison to understanding how these toxins interact with each other to produce additive or synergistic effects. In this study on Pacific Salmon, single pesticides that were sublethal at a given doze became lethal to the salmon when combined with other chemicals.

In this study on amphibians, combining multiple pesticides had an additive and synergistic toxicity on the amphibians.

It should come as no surprise that agrochemicals interact in the human body leading to metabolic issues, hormone disruptions, and other havoc (study 1, study 2).

This is negative synergy – AKA the “cocktail effect” of toxins.

Fortunately, healthy foods have a synergy of their own.

Positive Synergy

Multiple components of food, and multiple types of food have a powerful synergy and can promote wellness and reverse disease.

In this study, female mice were exposed to a potent carcinogen. Left untreated, 100% of the mice developed breast cancer. The researchers then fed Group A a single nutrient, Group B two nutrients,  Group C three nutrients, and Group D four nutrients. Here’s what they found:

mouse study

In another study on rats with prostate cancer, combining tomato powder and broccoli powder reduced the tumor weight by 52%. Tomato powder alone reduced the tumor weight by 34%. Broccoli powder alone reduced the tumor weight by 42%. And when the rats were given lycopene – a single element of tomatoes thought to be responsible for many of the health benefits – tumor size was only reduced by 7-18%, depending on the amount used.

The findings seem clear: Individual components of food as well as different varieties of food work together for a powerful synergistic effect and multiplicative health benefits. 

The lesson: Eat at least four types of fruits and vegetables every day for a powerful synergistic wellness cocktail.

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