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Genetically modified foods: culprits for gastrointestinal disorders?

Genetically modified foods

Genetically modified foods causes disorders?
Increased blood levels of toxins, Nutrients

Ever since the dawn of the production of genetically modified foods, there are already mind-boggling issues regarding its safety. A lot of issues regarding genetically modified foods or GMOs still remain unresolved; in fact, there are some who link the ingestion of GMOs to the presence of the irritable bowel syndrome.

So what are genetically modified foods? These are crops or animals that have undergone genetic engineering in order to come up with a better phenotype than the original product. However, contrary to popular belief, genetically modified foods do not necessarily undergo genetic engineering in order to produce the ideal phenotype – there are some who only undergo selective crossbreeding. But with regards to risks and threats that any anything artificial always comes with, would there be a difference?

There are four main concerns regarding the consumption of genetically modified foods: first, there is the threat for increased blood levels of toxins. Opponents of genetically modified foods are particularly concerned as to whether the concentrations of these toxins are within normal levels, or close to that of the non-genetically modified ones. Some plants, such as the cassava plant, are known to produce toxins and have to undergo cooking in order to deactivate these. The developers of genetically modified plants are consistently challenged to provide data to support that these toxins are within a safe range, prior to commercialization. Proponents of GMOs also indicate that toxins that are frequently identified as part of the plant do not necessarily come from the plant, but may also come from the pests and pathogens growing on that plant.

Second main concern is that genetically modified foods may have altered levels of essential nutrients. As a result, the developers of GMOs are also challenged to provide data supporting that the levels of nutrients in the new variety are not significantly different compared to the old ones. The objective of genetic engineering of foods today is to add or enhance the nutritional qualities in a specific plant. However, aside from the enhancements done, it is also demanded by the opponents of GMOs that the traditional features of the plant should not be lost and should still contain a more or less unaltered degree of nutrients it originally has. Nice point. Sometimes, it just sounds ironic to have all those enhancements and in the process, a plant loses to a certain degree the natural essential components it used to possess.

Genetically modified foods

Genetically modified foods causes disorders?
Food allergies, antibiotic resistance in the gut

The probability for introduction of allergens is the third main concern. Food allergies, which are very rampant in the population, are only attributed to the presence of one or two specific proteins contained in the food. In other words, it only takes one or two proteins to initiate a cascade of events that may be detrimental to one's health! In response to this, the developers of GMOs are challenged to carefully evaluate the allergenic potential of every new product prior to commercialization. In its evaluation, the crop itself, the source of the gene to be inserted, and the gene and protein sequence itself, has to be evaluated one by one in order to ensure safety.

The fourth, and most probably the main concern, is regarding the capacity of genetically modified foods to induce antibiotic resistance among bacteria in the gut. Since DNA integration can most probably involve errors, not all in the target genetic sequence to be inserted are actually “inserted” into the organism. Sometimes, the vectors used for the transfer of DNA fragments might actually express the genes. A few studies have claimed that bacteria in the gut utilized DNA sequences present in GMOs, making them resistant to antibiotics and therefore, harder to eradicate. This certainly sounded an alarm. As a result, this may be the reason behind the inability of antibiotics to effectively deal with pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract, indirectly causing a myriad of conditions and disorders that demand a higher level of treatment.

So how to we deal with these? These issues will perhaps persist for the next decades without solutions, for eating anything artificial will always have its risks. But then, we should not be distracted by becoming excessively alarmed by these improvements. Though the market is teeming around with genetically modified foods, the easiest solution is to go back to eating organic foods and try our best to find them. We could also resort to growing a few plants or crops at our backyard – all by ourselves. All these, and living a healthy lifestyle, will help keep the doctor away!

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