In the new book “What’s Making Our Children Sick?” California-based pediatrician Dr. Michelle Perro identifies industrially produced food – including genetically modified foods and their associated pesticides – as a major culprit in the current health crisis.
Dr. Perro has spent the past 20 years of her 37-year career treating children with complex health problems – and has earned a reputation for some remarkable successes. She co-authored the book with medical anthropologist Vincanne Adams. The book is subtitled “How Industrial Food Is Causing an Epidemic of Chronic Illness, and What Parents (and Doctors) Can Do About It.”
In an interview with GMOScience Dr. Perro explained: “Over the past two decades I’ve observed a rapid decline in children’s health. I recognized that what I was seeing in my patients correlated with the parallel introduction of GM food and increased pesticide usage in our food supply. Our children had become a science experiment and the results were not looking favorable for them.
“Clinicians look for patterns and I’ve seen so many children now with gut dysfunction that I can sort out the issues quickly. The most common disorders I see are related to gut function, specifically food allergies (along with other allergy-related diseases such as eczema and asthma), gastroesophageal reflux, chronic abdominal pain, constipation, and brain issues such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning challenges, behavioral and mood problems, and sleep disorders.
“What people don’t often know is that the gut and brain health are inexorably linked. Unhappy gut, unhappy brain. Looking at some of the laboratory test results, common findings are food antibodies, including the life-threatening type (IgE antibodies), as well as IgG and IgA antibodies (which are often reported as ‘food intolerances’ but are indeed an immune reaction), low levels of digestive enzymes, and abnormal stool results. We also commonly find altered nutrient levels, heavy metal exposures, and chronic infections.
“The majority of kids I see have abnormal findings in the poop. Often they have a low array of microbial diversity, early markers of inflammation (which can be a precursor to later autoimmune dysfunction), inadequate breakdown of fat and protein, and low levels of the important beneficial bacteria.
“The bacterial composition of our gut (also known as the microbiome) is presently being actively researched and is at the forefront of medicine. It’s important for many of our body’s functions, including detoxification, production of vitamins and neurotransmitters, and helping the immune system work at its bes.
“The key take-home point is that when patients change their diets to organic food, they get better. My patients are also receiving herbs, supplements, and homeopathic remedies that I recommend, but what is remarkable is that family members who are not my patients also get significantly better.
“I’ve felt frustration over the past two decades over the lack of research on the effects of GM foods and their associated pesticides on human health. I’ve had to extrapolate data from rats, chickens and pigs to treat patients
“But several animal studies caused light bulbs to switch on in my head. The first was in 1999, when I viewed the histopathology slides of the work of Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a European scientist. His research examined rats fed GM potatoes compared to those fed non-GM potatoes. When I saw the intestinal disruption of the villi in the rats (fingerlike projections in the gut lining responsible for nutrient absorption), it brought to mind the explosion of intestinal permeability that I was seeing in my child patients. This is not to say that we can extrapolate the findings of one study on one GM food to all GM foods: each GM crop is different and needs to be studied separately. But Pusztai’s study helped me get started on the scientific journey of learning more about the effects of these new foods on health.
“The second ‘aha’ moment was viewing the gross pathology found in the study on pigs carried out by Dr. Judy Carman and Howard Vlieger. The stomachs of pigs fed GM soy and corn, their typical diet, were compared to those fed non-GM soy and corn. The visual difference of the extensive inflammation in the GM-fed pigs compared to the normal stomachs of the non-GM fed pigs was shocking and supported my suspicion that many of the gut disorders I refer to above were being caused by GM foods and/or their associated pesticides.
“Recent followup studies led by Dr. Antoniou used cutting-edge “molecular profiling” (transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics) analytical techniques to examine tissues taken from the rats in the Séralini experiment. These studies showed that an ultra-low dose of Roundup fed over a long-term two-year period caused kidney and especially liver damage, resulting in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). NAFLD now affects 1 in 4 American adults and is also becoming a problem for children.
Q: What shocked or surprised you most in your ‘journey of discovery’ on these topics?
“I was shocked first by the fact that these findings were unreported and unknown among health practitioners. Second, I was shocked by the vehemence of the attacks on scientists whose work questions the safety or efficacy of GM foods and their associated pesticides Such attacks are not only ethically wrong, but discourage others from questioning the effects of industrial food on health. Third, I was shocked that many of these findings were known to the regulatory agencies that were designed to protect the public from the untoward effects of new products on health. But these agencies succumbed to the pressure by big agribusiness and failed to do their job.
“And last but not least, I was shocked to find that there are no human studies on the effects of GM food on health. Additionally, there are no human studies on the health effects of combinations of toxins.
Q: What are your recommendations for anyone who thinks that something in their diet might be causing or exacerbating their health problems?
The global advice I give to my patients is to try to eat an organic diet based on whole foods, avoiding processed food as much as possible, with the realization that on some days there will be suboptimal eating. We don’t strive for perfection, but to do the best we can. Then they can see the health benefits for themselves, from within a few days to a few weeks. It’s helpful if they can find an integrative practitioner or holistic nutritionist to advise them on how to eat, taking into account our modern food supply.
What’s Making Our Children Sick? How Industrial Food Is Causing an Epidemic of Chronic Illness, and What Parents (and Doctors) Can Do About It, by Michelle Perro, MD and Vincanne Adams, PhD, is published by Chelsea Green and available from Amazon.