Popular baby formulas and foods contain arsenic, lead and BPA

Baby food products — including 80% of infant formulas — tested positive for arsenic, according to the findings from a new study released Wednesday.

The 530 baby products, purchased in the past five months, were all tested by the Clean Label Project, a nonprofit group that advocates for transparent labeling. Out of those, the study found that 65% contained arsenic, 36% had lead, 60% had BPA (industrial chemical bisphenol A) and 58% contained cadmium, a natural toxic metal typically found in plant soil and smoking products.

Some of the more popular brands that tested positive for these harmful ingredients, including Gerber, Enfamil, Plum Organics and Sprout, were the worst offenders, according to the study. The brands scored an alarming two out of five on Clean Label Project's toxicity report card.

RELATED: Study finds most Americans don't eat enough fiber

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Read on to learn more about the importance of fiber intake.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services, little kids should aim to get about 19 to 25 grams of fiber per day, while older kids, teens and adults should aim to get 21 grams to 38 grams of fiber a day.

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Marla Reicks of the University of Minnesota led the study, which General Mils funded.

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Reicks and her team explored the whole grain and dietary fiber intakes of Americans aged two and above. They also used surveyed data from 9,042 people in 2009 and 2010.

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Reicks found that 42 percent of adults and 39 percent of children ate no whole grains whatsoever.

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Only 8 percent of adults and 3 percent of children and teens consumed the recommended three servings of fiber per day.

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According to the study, the most common sources of whole grains were oatmeal, bread, breakfast cereals, rolls and popcorn.

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Reicks recommends looking for the whole grain versions of breads, oatmeals and breakfast cereals to increase fiber intake.

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Reicks also explains that food labels can be confusing. “Some products indicate the whole grain content in grams on the label, which is very useful if you know how much whole grain is needed to count as a serving. And some use the whole grain stamp (The Whole Grains Council), but not all,” she said.

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Fiber is an important component to include in a healthy diet. Recent studies have associated whole grain intake to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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According to the National Fiber Council, a high fiber diet can lower cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, and even help in maintaining a healthy weight.

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These chemicals can affect fine motor skill development and cognition in babies and infants, USA Today reported.

"The baby industry needs to do a better job in protecting America's most vulnerable population," Clean Label Project's executive director Jaclyn Bowen told the newspaper.

Arsenic was the most prevalent chemical found in the study, with almost 80% of formula samples testing positive. Rice-based baby foods like snack puffs had some of the highest levels of arsenic as well. The toxic element can lead to developmental defects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, diabetes and cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

"It is important for consumers to understand that some contaminants, such as heavy metals like lead or arsenic, are in the environment and cannot simply be removed from food," FDA spokesperson Peter Cassell told USA Today.

RELATED: Cutting calorie intake could increase life expectancy, study finds

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Read on to learn more about how cutting calories could benefit your health.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently released the results of a 25-year study on how diet affected 76 rhesus monkeys. They published their findings in Nature Communications.

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The study found that the monkeys whose calories were more restricted had decreased rates of death and age-related illness.

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Researchers allowed one group of monkeys to eat as much as they pleased, while they began to restrict the calories of another group of monkeys by 30 percent.

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The study found that the monkeys who consumed what they wanted had a risk of disease 2.9 times higher than the group of monkeys whose diets were restricted.

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The monkeys without the restricted diets also experienced a threefold increase in risk of death.

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This is not the first time that calorie restriction has been studied. In past research, calorie restriction has been found to increase the life expectancy of rodents, flies and yeast by nearly 40 percent.

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The researchers also found that the monkeys without calorie restrictions had higher instances of diabetes, pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome just six months into the study.

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While these findings are interesting, they do not mean that calorie restriction is the best diet. One of the study's authors, Rozalyn Anderson aptly explains that the work is "...a research tool, not a lifestyle recommendation."

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Anderson explained in a press release that studying calorie restriction is important because "...it has such a robust effect on aging and the incidence and timing of age related disease. Already, people are studying drugs that affect the mechanisms that are active in caloric restriction. There is enormous private-sector interest in some of these drugs."

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Richard Weindruch, one of the founders of the study, understands that most people could not handle a 30 percent reduction in calories. However, he still believes this research is promising because it suggests that the findings in previous studies about calorie restriction in flies and rodents also apply to rhesus monkeys, who are more closely related to humans.

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While that may be true — rice can absorb arsenic from contaminated soil — the Food and Drug Administration proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice foods in 2016, but the limit isn’t being enforced. Some products in the study tested positive for up to 600 parts of arsenic per billion.

And no amount of lead is safe — even low levels can cause low IQs, behavioral problems and hearing issues. In another recent study by the Environmental Defense Fund, the heavy metal was identified in 20% of baby foods. 89% of baby-marketed grape juices, 55% of apple juices and 86% of sweet potato baby food.

A list pro products tested by the Clean Label Product alone with a star-rating for each can be found on the organization's website.

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