Aflatoxin: Some molds produce carcinogenic toxins called “mycotoxins.” One of the most widely recognized is “aflatoxin,” which has been linked to liver cancer. Peanuts are well-known to be susceptible to this type of mold contamination. Grains and nuts (corn, wheat, rice, cottonseeds, barley, soybeans, Brazil nuts, and pistachios) are also susceptible. The molds that produce aflatoxins are most likely to grow in warm, humid climates, especially when rain falls on plants that are left in the fields to dry. They can also form on plants damaged by insects or drought. It is sometimes hard to see, making it difficult to assess contamination.
This mold is particularly prevalent in poorer quality cereals and nuts. While most of the low-grade products do not enter the food market as such, they do enter via animal feed, contaminating meats and milk. Cottonseeds have been banned from animal feed since aflatoxins adhere to the hulls of the seeds. The people in underdeveloped nations have a higher rate of consumption of contaminated foods than do those of the US or Canada.
Milk is often contaminated with aflatoxins, with powdered milk containing approximately eight times more than the liquid. Measureable amounts can be found in baby foods that incorporate dry milk into the product with the intent of raising the protein content of the product. Pasteurization, sterilization, and spray drying are processes that substantially reduce aflatoxin content, but the processes also reduce the nutritive value. The meats most susceptible to undetected aflatoxin contamination are pig liver, kidney tissues, and chicken. Aflatoxins are the most potent carcinogens known, causing more cancers than any other source. A generally poor diet predisposes one to aflatoxin susceptibility.
Other chemicals in food found to be carcinogenic are: piperine, safrole, and terpenes (in black pepper), solanine (in the green skin of potatoes), and safrole (in some spices).
Antioxidants consist of certain nutrients, mainly Vitamins C, E, beta carotene, and selenium. There are other nutrients that have anitoxidant properties, however. There is differing opinion as to just which elements are classified as viable antioxidants and those that have antioxidant properties. Other nutrients that are often listed as being antioxidants are the B Complex – all or some; and such minerals as iron and zinc. The body uses antioxidants for biochemical reactions to rid itself of free radicals that cause disease. Interesting research shows that the majority of cancers progress more rapidly in the morning than at any other time of the day. Therefore, it is better to take antioxidants at that time rather than later in the day. Synthetic antioxidants (BHA and BHT) are added to improve shelf life, but instead of helping the body as the natural ones do, they interfere with energy production, cell metabolism, and respiration because they do not fit precisely into the molecular structure of the enzyme systems and membranes. In time, this miniscule oddity can bring about degenerative disease.
Antivitamins are natural or synthetic substances similar in structure to a vitamin but which interferes with its normal functioning by competative inhibition, inactivation, or chemical destruction. Some of the most common antivitamins are Dicumarol (affecting Vitamin K), thiaminase (affecting B1), Atabrine (affecting B2), aminopterin (affecting folic acid), and avidin (affecting biotin).
Ascorbic Acid is also known as Vitamin C. It is a white, crystalline compound closely related to the monosaccharide sugars. It exists in two forms: L-ascorbic acid (reduced form) and dehydroascorbic acid (oxidized form). Both are biologically active, although dehydroascorbic acid is somewhat less stable. They are readily reversibly reduced and oxidized, but further oxidation of dehydroascorbic acid results in complete loss of activity.
ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is a nucleic acid that is a specialized nucleotide consisting of the base adenine, the sugar ribose, and three phosphate groups. ATP is one of several energy-transfer molecules within cells, transferring the potential energy in food molecules to cell processes.