• Chromatography Reveals Why You Should Avoid Certain Snacks

Chromatography Reveals Why You Should Avoid Certain Snacks

Dec 23 2018 Read 1730 Times

According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. With approximately 1 in 6 deaths due to cancer, an estimated 9.6 million people will die from cancer in 2018. Lung and breast cancers are the most common cancers that are diagnosed, with lung cancer the most common cause of death with an estimated 1.8 million deaths expected in 2018.

Liver cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths worldwide - with the WHO estimating that there will be over 780,000 deaths globally from liver cancer in 2018. There are many causes of liver cancer - as there are for most cancers. The WHO breaks down the causes of cancer into three main agents:

  • physical carcinogens - examples include UV and ionizing radiation,
  • chemical carcinogens - examples are asbestos, tobacco smoke and aflatoxins,
  • biological carcinogens - viruses, bacteria and parasites.

Aflatoxins are not a fun guy

Aflatoxins are mycotoxins found on crops including corn, tree nuts and peanuts. It is caused by fungi - the main producers being Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus nominus and Aspergillus parasiticus. The fungi are abundant in warm, humid areas of the world and can contaminate the crops at many stages including in the field, during harvest and during storage.

People can become exposed to aflatoxins through several routes. Farm and agricultural workers can inhale dust containing aflatoxins during the handling or storing of contaminated crops or feeds. People can also be exposed to aflatoxins by eating contaminated plant products. The US National Institute of Cancer website warns people to avoid eating nuts or nut butters that look mouldy, discoloured or shrivelled.

Be wary of what you eat

A recent study in Turkey - Determination of Aflatoxin Contents of Some Chips and Snacks with Peanut by PostColumn UV Derivatization System - used chromatography to study the effects of peanuts on the aflatoxin levels of chips and peanut-snack products to determine the risks to public health. The use of chromatography to screen for compounds is discussed in the article, Addressing the Need for Faster Screening and Fraction Collection for Chiral and Achiral SFC.

The team analysed 10 different types of chips and 4 different types of peanut bars from samples bought in the markets of Istanbul. After grinding, high performance liquid chromatography was used to determine the aflatoxin concentration in each sample. They detected aflatoxins in 50% of the samples - with concentrations higher in the chip samples compared to the peanut bars. The aflatoxin levels were detected ‘in quantities that seriously affect human health in consumed chips’.

So, when in Istanbul - beware of chips containing peanuts.

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