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Everyone, young and old alike, has a few favourite foods and while they may rank in different orders for each of us, these common food favourites are often found ranked somewhere on our individual lists. Now, most of us are aware that some of our food favourites are unhealthy and shouldn’t be excessively indulged in, but remain unaware that these common favourites go well beyond having simply too much salt or fat in them. Some of these culinary favourites are teeming with poisons. Here are 5 of the worst and most common offenders along with how they are secretly trying to kill you and your loved ones.#1 Hot DogsWho doesn’t love a hot dog? They are a favourite at barbecues and sports games but they also pose several potentially deadly risks. With regard to preparation, hot dogs differ to other sausages in that they are usually precooked before they are packaged and dispatched to the supermarket which means that hot dogs can be eaten straight out of the packet without any additional preparation. However, this lack of further cooking increases the risk of contracting Listeriosis in those who eat it, particularly infants, the elderly and those with a weak immune system. This particular bacterial infection is relatively rare and usually lasts for up to 10 days but its symptoms include: fever, muscles aching and vomiting, in addition to diarrhoea and you may even contact meningitis. More alarmingly, a report conducted by the American Institute for Cancer Research revealed evidence that eating around 50 grams of processed meat (equivalent to a hot dog) each day increases one’s chance of colorectal cancer by 21%. The Institute deemed this finding 'significant and cause for concern,' so concerning, in fact, that it prompted the Cancer Project to file a suit calling for warning labels to be put on packaging for hot dogs and to be displayed at public events. The findings of the American Institute has stoked controversy and even though most health professionals agree that the odd hot dog here and there probably won’t do you much damage, the statistics suggest that we consume more than just the odd hot dog: in 2007, American consumers spent more $4 billion on hot dogs.#2 PeppersNot necessarily so much a favourite food as much as an ingredient for favourite foods such as Chilli, Nachos, Salsa or a mild form of self-flagellation (most people will test their limits with hot peppers a few times in their lives). And although plenty of us avoid the heat, many of you crave spicy dishes where the general rule is hotter equals better. Regardless of how hot it may be all peppers get their heat from a chemical called Capsaicin. Capsaicin is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and is so strong that it is often used as an ingredient in paint stripper, in pepper spray, and the Indian Armed Forces are even working on the ‘chilli grenade’-- a sort of tear gas designed with the hottest chilli pepper in the world as its dominant ingredient. Severe over-exposure or consumption of pure capsaicin can result in death, however, this is highly unlikely to achieve simply by eating peppers and there appears to be no recorded capsaicin-related death through simply consuming pepper. So then what do you have to worry about? Well, scientific studies on the consumption of peppers some immune enhancing properties at low levels they also found high rates of stomach and liver cancer in countries who have a high intake of capsaicin-rich products.#3 Potato ChipsPotato chips are one of the most popular snacks throughout the world but they are also one of the unhealthiest. Potatoes are generally healthy but it is the way Potato Chips are prepared that makes them unhealthy. Chips are prepared by deep-frying thin slices of potato and adding extremely high concentrations of sugar and salt, in addition to other preservatives and additives -- As such, potato chips have become symbolic of ‘junk food’ and are frequently touted as a leading cause of weight gain. In fact, one long-term study revealed that potato chips were the food most strongly associated with weight gain in both men and women. But the high trans-fat content means more than just gaining a few extra pounds. Trans fats occur naturally in very small amounts in some foods, most noticeably meat and dairy products, but most trans fats appear in our diets when vegetable oils in foods are chemically changed into trans fats in order to guarantee longer shelf life. This affects many different foods but chips, in particular, are full of trans fats. These particular fatty acids have no known beneficial nutritional content and have been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and conversely lowering levels of ‘good’ cholesterol. In addition, various studies have suggested that a high intake of trans fat can also lead to Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes and Depression. #4 SaladsA common favourite for the health-conscious, salads are regularly for their delicious and nutritious value. But what most people don’t know is that leafy greens, such as salads, are one of the most common sources of E.coli outbreaks which can be life-threatening. E. coli is a bacterium that is found in the intestine of humans and animals and while most strands of it are harmless, the O157:H7 in particular can lead to very severe illness in humans and even death. Symptoms usually include severe diarrhoea and abdominal cramps for as long as 9 days and, in rarer cases (particularly children and the elderly), haemolytic uremic syndrome whereby the red blood cells are destroyed, leading to kidney failure. While E. coli in general is most commonly associated with undercooked meat products, advisory warning have been issued that contaminated lettuce is one of the most common causes of this harmful strain of E. coli. #5 Soft drinksLike, potato chips, soft drinks are already well-known for their lacking nutritional value but there are other more sinister and deadly side-effects to soft drinks beyond obesity and dental cavities. For example, soft drinks’ high concentration of caffeine is believed to be linked to sleep disruption and anxiety while their high value of sodium benzoate has been suggested as a cause of hyperactivity and DNA damage -- and where there is DNA damage there is the possibility of long-term illness and death. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that the phosphoric acid contained in some soft drinks essentially leaches calcium from the bones, thus reducing bone density and leading to weakness of the bones and osteoporosis. Results of many of these studies have been controversial. Regardless, some countries, such as Japan and France, have even attempted (and failed) to ban sales of Coca-Cola because of its high phosphoric acid content and believed subsequent effect on bone density.
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