Readers Respond to "A Chemical Red Flag"--and More

Scientific American Mind


Regarding “How Packaged Food Makes Girls Hyper,” by Aimee Cunningham [Head Lines], it is possible that a high level of BPA in the mother is a symptom of a different underlying problem, rather than the cause of the behavioral issues in young children.

The sources of BPA in humans are commonly packaging from processed foods and beverages that may themselves contain many other additives. High BPA levels probably correlate with poor diet and nutrition, as well as with higher levels of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors, all of which some studies link causally with behavioral problems in children.

Parents with poor social support or less education may resort to these kinds of foods more often, and thus it may be that disadvantage, social isolation or parental neglect is responsible for some of the three-year-old girls who were “more anxious, depressed and hyperactive” and who had “more difficulty … controlling their emotions and inhibiting behaviors.”

That said, it is self-evident that endocrine disruptors and chemicals that mimic hormones—such as BPA—might have dramatic effects on fetal development and subsequent behavior in childhood and on the timing of puberty.

“Dr Jane”
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“The Carnivore's Dilemma,” by Morgen E. Peck [Head Lines], showed that there was some difference among the mind-sets of people who knew they were about to eat meat as compared with people who were about to eat a nonmeat snack.

Personally, I think this is a beneficial adaptation because any reservations about eating anything, especially something as nutritious as meat, would put a lot of negative selection pressure on the individual harboring these feelings. Basically, because even our closest ancestors are mostly vegetarian, anybody in the Homo genus that was grossed out by meat had a much lower probability of passing on their genes.

Because most Americans eat too much meat anyway, it would help a lot if people gave more thought to how much land, water, food, energy and other resources were used and to the sacrifices made by the animal that provided the meat they are eating before going overboard with their meat consumption. If these facts were more present in people's minds, wasting meat would be less of a problem.

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I wonder why “The Problem with the Pill,” by Janelle Weaver [Head Lines], did not mention the fact that the pill changes the hormonal body balance into a virtual “pregnancy” mode, which in turn can change a woman's mood into moodiness (as I can attest from past personal experience).

Many studies have also shown that, with prolonged use of the pill, there is a definite loss of libido as a side effect to be taken into account. These effects could explain the study's findings; for instance, that pill users think their mates are less sexually attractive.

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“The Nuts and Bolts of Emotional Sobriety,” by Wray Herbert [We're Only Human], reminded me of my own experience.

As a kid, I was taught that it was inappropriate to show feelings. I incorporated the belief that it was also inappropriate to have feelings. I was in counseling briefly when I was 25 or so, and when the counselor asked me, “How do you feel about that?” I had absolutely no concept of what she was talking about.

Many years later, trying to get sober, I began to learn what feelings were, how to identify them and, most important, what to tuck away for later and what to deal with now—as this article describes. I learned that feelings, although they may hurt, cannot harm me unless I let them. I remember well the very first time that I felt joy and was able to identify and enjoy it. Wow!

This article was originally published with the title "March/April 2012 Issue."

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