India’s rising cancer epidemic: Carcinogen-laden spices the root cause? – ET HealthWorld

New Delhi: Most Indians crave spicy food with an array of spices that enhances their taste buds, rarely thinking about the richness of spices in each serving. carcinogen, It has been recently revealed by international food regulators that Indian spices contain excessive amounts of ethylene oxideA fumigant commonly used in the spice industry is making global headlines for its potential carcinogenic properties, However, the allegations have been denied by Indian brands. oncologists Warns that regular and long-term consumption of food additives, emulsifiers and foods treated with ethylene oxide increases the risk of cancer, especially stomach and breast cancer. Oncologists have also stated that the development of some types of cancer may be multifactorial, and no single factor will significantly increase the risk. Also, certain dietary patterns, food choices, ingredients containing carcinogens, which are widely prevalent in the food market, increase the risk of cancer.

Speaking to ETHealthworld, Dr Indranil Ghosh, Senior Consultant Medical Oncology, Apollo Cancer Centersaid, “Although spices are known for adding delicious elements to our food, some Indian masala brand It is possible that it may have inadvertently contained elements with carcinogenic properties. This may be due to chemical contaminants, improper storage conditions, and adulteration practices, which contribute to increased cancer risks. Even the spices we use all the time like turmeric, cumin and chili powder may contain these harmful ingredients in small amounts. This emphasizes the need for quality control and careful sourcing practices when it comes to these spices and seasonings.”

Reiterating the same, Dr BJ Srinivas, Consultant Medical Oncologist, HCG Cancer Centre, said, “Traditional indian spices It has been used for centuries not only for its taste but also for its medicinal properties. However, modern spice brands may contain additives, preservatives, and artificial flavors, which can potentially increase risk of cancer, It is essential to distinguish between traditional spices and modern ingredients when assessing their effects on health.

Experts also said that from time to time there are reports of cancer-causing chemicals being detected in some daily food products that are used in Indian households but are ignored, and there is no stringent quality control. Control measures are not taken or adopted. Safe processing methods.

Hidden danger in Indian food!

Throwing light on ethylene oxide, Dr Ghosh pointed out that regular consumption of spices treated with ethylene oxide may increase the risk of cancer, especially in vulnerable age groups. He said children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may be more sensitive to the adverse effects of this chemical.

“When it comes to children, their bodies are still developing, and their DNA repair mechanisms may not be as efficient. As for the elderly, their immune systems weaken with age, leaving them vulnerable to damage. become less able to fight the cells. We need to have strict regulations and extensive checks to ensure that our spices are truly safe and tasty,” said Dr Ghosh.

Highlighting that ethylene oxide is a highly volatile industrial gas that is used as a fumigant for agricultural purposes and to sterilize heat and moisture-sensitive medical instruments and equipment, Aakash Healthcare’s Surgical Oncology Dr. Arun Kumar Giri, Director, said, “Being a highly active agent, if it is exposed to the human body on a large scale, it can cause severe cell damage and even DNA damage. Over time, DNA damage can cause malignant changes in cells and lead to colon cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma, and leukemia. Recently it has been reported that the levels of ethylene oxide in some Indian spices have exceeded the acceptable limits, which is a matter of concern.

Adding to this, Dr. Mangesh P Kamath, Additional Director, Medical Oncology, Cunningham Road, Bangalore, Fortis Hospital, told that ethylene oxide is a gas used in spice sterilization and can be carcinogenic in high quantities. Rules to limit its use and avoid highly processed spices are advised.

Noting that ethylene oxide is a chemical mainly used in industrial processes, Dr. Bharat Bhosale-Consultant, Medical Oncology, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, said, “It is being tested by many health organizations including the International Agency for Research Ethylene oxide is classified as a carcinogen.” on Cancer (IARC). “Repeated exposure to ethylene oxide increases the risk of certain cancers, particularly leukemia and lymphoma, as well as breast cancer and colon cancer.”

Regarding the age group most easily affected, Dr. Bhosale said, “It is challenging to pinpoint any specific group as cancer susceptibility can vary depending on a variety of factors, including genetics, lifestyle and overall health. However, specific Chronic exposure to ethylene oxide in occupational settings such as industrial or health care environments may increase cancer risk over time. Additionally, children and adolescents may be more sensitive to the effects of carcinogens. “

Asking the government and essential authorities to wake up and prioritize food safety for consumers, Dr Ghosh said, “While spices are known to add the deliciousness factor to our food, some Indian spice brands have inadvertently added carcinogens. Must have added elements with properties. This may be due to chemical contaminants, improper storage conditions, and adulteration practices, which contribute to increased cancer risks. Even the spices we use all the time like turmeric, cumin and chili powder may contain these harmful ingredients in small amounts. This emphasizes the need for quality control and careful sourcing practices when it comes to these spices and seasonings.”

According to the IARC, ethylene oxide is a Group 1 carcinogen, which indicates the seriousness of the problem. Oncologists point out that those who are in a position to impact the ecosystem should take the responsibility of creating awareness and educating people about safer alternatives such as biological sources.

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Food on our plate at the cost of our health?
Ironically, most of these spices and spices that have been an integral part of Indian kitchens and traditional cuisine as examples of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties, now being associated with cancer causing agents have become a major concern over food safety. produces.

“For the last 1000 years, spices have been widely used in India and other parts of the world for flavoring food and for medicinal purposes. Several studies have documented their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties and their connection to the prevention and treatment of several cancers, including lung, liver, breast, stomach, colon, rectal, cervical and prostate cancers. These spices help improve sensitivity to radiotherapy and chemotherapy during treatment, and they also help reduce inflammation associated with treatment. Several Indian spices such as turmeric and clove have been experimentally used to regulate and modulate cancer cell growth as well as signal transduction pathways involved in apoptosis, angiogenesis and metastasis. Most of these spices have been an integral part of our kitchen. Traditionally, in our country our kitchen has been a pharmacy. A lot of spices are used along with spices,” said Dr Giri.

Mentioning that it is important to strike a delicate balance between taste and safety, Dr. Ghosh said, “It is important to know what spices we consume and where they come from. Label transparency, and adherence to quality standards can empower consumers to make healthy dietary choices. We can also diversify choices such as organic sources, all of which can help us make better choices, as well. “Using a variety of spices and not overdoing any one type is a great way to keep things delicious and healthy, thereby fostering a culture of culinary responsibility.”

Voices like Dr. Ghosh and Dr. Giri have been repeatedly highlighting the dire need for stringent regulation, quality control and cautious sourcing practices when it comes to these spices or any food ingredient. A joint effort is needed to ensure that no household globally is served food that is associated with hidden health risks or potentially leads to cancer.

  • Published on April 30, 2024 at 05:36 pm IST

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