Parabens or Preservatives: in your food and makeup

Parabens or Preservatives: in your food and makeup

Parabens or Preservatives: in your food and makeup

It is common to find the claim ‘parabens-free’ on a label these days. Such claims can be specifically found in some cosmetic products. The question, then, is: what are parabens and why has the claim that something is ‘parabens-free’ become an important and differentiating factor? Is it because parabens are harmful for us?

What are Parabens?

Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as preservatives in pharmaceuticals, food products, and cosmetic and personal-hygiene products.

What are the types of Parabens?

Some parabens occur naturally in nature. Methylparaben is a pheromone (hormone) secreted by some insects. Parabens such as propylparaben and butylparaben are naturally found in some plants and insects. All commercially used parabens are synthetically produced, although some are identical to those found in nature.

Why are Parabens used?

The salts of the parabens have bactericidal and fungicidal properties. They are used extensively because when they are added to a product, they prevent its decomposition. An additional factor is their resistance to the high temperatures used in food processing. Apart from being efficacious preservatives, they are cost-effective too. Naturally occurring preservatives are inefficacious compared to parabens. While numerous preservatives are commercially available, the ideal preservative is inexpensive, has a long shelf life with broad antimicrobial coverage, is compatible with other chemicals, and is not irritating or toxic. Parabens meet many of these expectations and, therefore, have become one of the most commonly used preservatives in cosmetic preparations and topical therapeutics.

Which Products contain Parabens?

Everyday Things Where Parabens Can Be Found:

  • Cosmetics: Moisturisers, lipsticks, lip balms, foundations, concealers, eye makeup, makeup removers, etc.
  • Hygiene products: Shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, soaps, toothpastes, topical ointments, deodorants and anti-perspirants, shaving gels, sunscreens, etc.
  • Food products: Salad dressing, mayonnaise, mustard, processed vegetables, frozen dairy products, soft drinks, baked goods, jellies, pickles, jams, etc.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Topical medications, ointments, etc. Parabens are commonly used as a preservative in parenteral pharmaceuticals – that is, pharmaceuticals that are injected intravenously or intramuscularly in the human system.
Where and what to look for if a cosmetic or food product has Parabens?

On a cosmetic pack: Parabens are quoted on the label as:

  • Methylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Benzylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben

  On a food pack Parabens in food packs are quoted as E numbers. They are mentioned in the ingredients list. Parabens commonly used as food additives are:

  • Methylparaben (E218)
  • Heptylparaben (E209)
What is Paraben Sensitivity?

People can be allergic to paraben. They can experience an allergic reaction when they –

  • Apply a cosmetic product containing paraben on their skin
  • Apply topical drugs containing paraben on damaged or broken skin
  • Ingest food products that have paraben
  • Consume medicines containing paraben

It is important to do a sensitivity test before you start using any cosmetic product. The test is simple. Apply the new cosmetic to a small skin patch and then observe any changes in the skin. The observation time may range between 24 and 48 hours. If no change in the skin patch is observed, you can start using the cosmetic.

What are the ill effects of Parabens on our health?
  • Parabens cause endocrine disruptions

Studies suggest that prolonged exposure to parabens can lead to endocrine disruptions. Parabens can mimic the ‘oestrogen’ hormone and therefore can cause an imbalance in the body’s hormonal system. In infants and children, paraben exposure can lead to development disorders, immune-system disorders, learning problems and reproductive disorders. They can even induce early onset of puberty in children. It is important that paraben exposure is kept in check.

  • Parabens cause cancer

Some studies indicate that paraben exposure can cause cancer but it is disputed by most researchers, according to whom cosmetics and food items do not contain the amount of parabens that can lead to cancer. For paraben, like any other additive or preservative, they have set a limit that is safe for human exposure. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens. The FDA has also classified methyl and propylparaben as ‘generally regarded as safe’ by medical and toxicological experts for use in preserving food.   In a study, a high amount of methylparaben was found in the cancer tissues of patients who had breast cancer, but the researchers failed to prove that methylparaben caused these tumours.  

  • Premature ageing a result of Parabens

Studies suggest that methylparaben increases sensitivity to sunrays and thus increases the damage caused by them. One must carefully check this ingredient while buying a cosmetic product.

What are the effects of Parabens on the environment?

Parabens are used extensively in cosmetics. Thus, they are often washed away in the water drains. They accumulate in the waste water and undergo waste-water treatment. Nevertheless, many studies have reported high levels of parabens in the treated water. The discarded parabens are also known to play a significant role in formation of chlorinated parabens that are difficult to be treated. Accumulation of these products in the environment leads to increase in paraben concentration. This can enhance the occurrence of health disorders associated with parabens.

What do the products that claim ‘Paraben free’ use instead?

Although the jury is out on the connection between parabens and human health, there is a growing band of products claiming to be parabensfree. Apparently, products that claim to be parabens-free use alternative preservatives such as phenoxyethanol, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, neolone, optiphen plus, hydantoin, glycacil, natrulon and benzethonium chloride.

What are the Indian Regulations related to Parabens?

As per the compendium on Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011, the following parabens and derivatives are permitted to be added in food products as food additives:

  • Sodium propyl p-hydroxybenzoate: It is the sodium salt of propylparaben and is also identified as E217.
  • Sodium ethyl p-hydroxybenzoate: It is the sodium salt of ethylparaben and is also known as E215.
  • Methyl p-hydroxybenzoate: It is also known as methylparaben (E218)
  • Heptyl p-hydroxybenzoate: It is also known as heptylparaben (E209)

The 2016 amendment in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, states the name of the preservative used in the drug or the cosmetic product should be mentioned on the label.

A2 Milk: Why you should know more about it?

A2 Milk: Why you should know more about it?

A2 Milk: Why you should know more about it?

You might have heard about A2 milk and the claims that it is better than the regular milk (A1 milk) commonly available in the market. Consumer perceives such milk as better option than regular milk. Even A2 ghee too is perceived as healthier. But, what’s the reality? Here’s a fact-check read on A2 milk.

Richa Pande

Take the example of A2 ghee; it is costlier. However, is it healthier too? Interestingly, any type of ghee made either from A2 or A1 milk are just fats. Any ghee does not contain protein, and it is mainly a protein BCM-7 present in regular milk that is under scrutiny for having some adverse health impacts. So, it is essential to be mindful when you are buying A2 milk products.

Behind the A2 milk controversy

The A2 milk controversy has its roots in the milk revolution which was launched in the 1970s in India. The milk revolution, also known as ‘operation flood’ and ‘white revolution’, was an Indian food security program. It was a move to boost the milk production to meet the nutritional requirements of the nation. The program was a huge success and is still considered to be one of the most accomplished food security programs in India. The program emphasized on the import of cattle breeds for higher yield. This eventually led to the side-lining of the Indian breeds.

Traditionally, the cows in the African and Asian continents produced A2 milk. But the switch from A2 to A1 cows to boost the production let to the milk consumption switch in India. However, on the other hand, many developed and developing nations including China, Australia, USA & UK have imported the Indian and African breeds and are switching to A2 milk consumption.

Recently, it has been found that the consumption of A1 milk (now commonly consumed in India) could be linked with neurological disorders heart diseases, diabetes. Also, some individuals cannot digest this type of milk and its regular intake can lead to bloating and irritable bowel syndrome. This is harmful and can lead to many intestinal disorders. On the other hand, A2 milk does not have beta-casein 1 and thus it’s consumption does not result in the disorders which can be caused by the consumption of A1 milk.

A2 Milk

How is the composition of A1 milk different from A2 milk?

Let us begin by understanding that milk has beta casein protein in it. There are two types of variations of this protein i.e. A1 beta-casein and A2 beta-casein. The milk nomenclature is as per beta casein variant present in the milk. The difference is because of the change in the position of an amino acid. The A1 variant has histidine while A2 casein has proline.

Potential harmful impacts of consuming A1 milk 

  • Consumption of BCM-7 has been interlinked with causing type 1 diabetes, heart diseases infant death, autism, and digestive problems
  • Some research papers also interlink its consumption with adverse impacts on immune system  

Note that BCM-7’s absorption in its intact form into our bloodstream is not understood well. Many research studies couldn’t detect BCM-7 in the blood of healthy adults who drink cow’s milk, but some studies indicate that BCM-7 can be present in the bloodstream of infants who consumed cow milk. This predisposes the infants to the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in infants

The other side of the story

Although there are many studies which link consumption of A1 milk with some diseases, some experts argue that many Europeans and Americans have been consuming it for generations and it is safe for consumption. A systematic review by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) declares that no cause-and-effect relationship can be established between consumption of BCM- 7 (present in A1 milk) and the occurrence of acclaimed diseases. It is important to note that the conclusions of a systematic review are more reliable than a single study. The same article also quotes a NBAGR [ National Bureau of Genetic Resources] paper that, there are very few cattle with the A1 genes in India which are used for breeding and milking. As per this paper, the A1 milk and A2 milk are mixed when they are procured from small farmers. Even if the claims related to the A1 milk are true, the impact of A1 milk after being mixed with A2 milk is subdued and can cause little harm to human health.

Prices of the A2 milk products in India

   Cost Per Litre
A1 Milk ₹ 56- 90 per litre
A2 Milk ₹75- 110 per litre
A1 Ghee ₹ 450- 650 per litre
A2 Ghee ₹ 1500- 2300 per litre

How to assess if you are intolerant to A1 milk?  

As mentioned before, A1 milk can not only cause comorbidities like diabetes, heart diseases etc but can also impact your gut health. You can follow these steps to understand whether you are intolerant to it:

  • Carefully observe the changes you experience after consuming milk and milk products that you consume usually. Do you feel bloated? Does it ache? Does milk impact your motion? If yes you could be either intolerant to the lactose or beta-caesin1. If you are lactose intolerant, you can consume curd instead of milk as fermentation reduces the lactose levels in the milk.
  • You can buy lactose free milk from the market to check if the problem is because of the A1beta-casein or lactose in the milk. If the intolerance persists even after consuming the lactose free milk, it could be because of the A1 beta-casein. As many Indians rely on dairy products for protein intake, milk cannot be eliminated from the diet. These consumer tips might help someone who is intolerant to beta-casein1 in milk-
  • Switch to pasteurized A2 milk if it is available in your locality
  • Procure milk from local vendors who raise ‘desi cattle.’ However, please note that food safety can be compromised in procuring milk from local vendors.
  • You can buy soymilk as an alternative to the milk products.

FSSAI regulation on A1 and A2 Milk 

  • Standards of milk as specified in Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 do not mention or recognise any differentiation of milk based on A1 and A2 types.
  • Scientific panels on milk and milk products have discussed the regarding adverse/beneficial effects of A1 and A2 types of milk. They couldn’t arrive at a conclusion due to lack of clinical data and risk assessment.

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Ceramics in your home may cause cancer

Ceramics in your home may cause cancer

Ceramics in your home may cause cancer

The findings, led by the University of Plymouth in England, showed that cadmium ceramics wares and glass painting in your house might contain high levels of cadmium that could raise the risk of cancer.

Cadmium is commonly used to give products a bright red, orange or yellow pigment, but over time the decoration on glass can start to flake and the glaze on ceramics fail, ingestion of which can potentially raise risks to human health as well as the environment.

As per the findings, cadmium was also found in everyday household products like secondhand plastic toys, drinking glasses and alcoholic beverage bottles. The surfaces of these common items were covered by cadmium more than the recommended levels, said to be ranging from 50 to 800 parts per million (ppm).

The highest readings of up to 70,000 ppm were recorded on the enamels of old and new drinking glasses and bottles, with cadmium detected in about 70 per cent of the 197 logos, patterns, text, pictures and cartoons tested on 72 products, the researchers revealed in the paper published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

“If you asked most people about cadmium, they would probably know very little about it. But it is listed among the World Health Organization’s 10 chemicals of major public health concern, alongside substances such as lead and asbestos,” said Andrew Turner, associate professor from the varsity.

“The health risk depends on how easily the cadmium can flake off or leach out. Additional tests performed indicate that this is greatest for enamelled glassware,” said Turner.

In addition, cadmium was found in new ceramic items such as mugs, plates and bowls, with the highest recorded level of 40,000 ppm, and in old plastic products including toys, with a maximum 35,000 ppm in a small decorative brooch.

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