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Here's a serving of culinary irony to go with your holiday leftovers: Non-stick cookware, which helps us avoid unhealthy fats when we cook, may actually raise our cholesterol levels. At least that's what a new study from Boston University's School of Public Health suggests. Researchers found that people with higher levels of non-stick polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs) in their bloodstreams also had higher levels of non-HDL ("bad") cholesterol.
This is a prime example of why (forgive the pun) it's always wise to stick to the Precautionary Principle. Because until we know something for sure, we really don't know anything at all.
There's been a simmering suspicion that PFCs are up to no good. Previous studies, for example, found a correlation between very high PFC levels in the body (like those found in PFC workers) and higher cholesterol. But this study is different: it's a general population study that hints that far lower levels of PFCs, like those found in regular folk, might also affect cholesterol.
The key word there is "hints," and it means that we have to take the study itself with a dose of precaution. It's a preliminary finding that identifies an association between PFC exposure and higher cholesterol but hardly proves direct cause-and-effect. There could be something else at work here, something unrelated to PFCs.
We just don't know. And until we do, precaution is advised. What does that mean? Well, first be aware that some of the PFCs in the BU study have been phased out. They persist in our bodies and the environment, but they're not being made anymore. Still, many PFCs and related chemicals remain in production, and one of these was linked to higher cholesterol in the BU study. There's also a fear that both the chemical replacements for the phased-out PFCs and those that remained in production simply break down into the banned chemicals as they age.
Until science gives us the all-clear, we should keep PFCs at arm's length. What does that mean? For starters, consider replacing your non-stick cookware with cast iron. Trust me -- once it's seasoned, it works like a charm. Try to cut out microwave popcorn and processed and fast foods, especially greasy types -- their packaging is typically coated with PFCs to prevent soak-throughs. Don't use glossy paper plates. And remember that the best defense is a good offense. Click here to learn more about PFCs and stay informed!