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Can Your Living Environment Contribute to Weight Gain?


cooking in kitchen with environmental toxins causing weight gain

Is the surge in weight gain rates indicative of more than just overconsumption and insufficient physical activity? Some specialists propose that obesogens might be playing a pivotal role. Discover what these substances are and how they could impact body weight.


The prevalence of overweight and obese individuals has witnessed a significant upswing in recent decades. While some attribute it to the abundance of high-calorie convenience foods and a sedentary lifestyle facilitated by technology, others contend that the obesity epidemic extends beyond fast-food indulgences and prolonged screen time. These experts suggest that environmental chemicals known as obesogens play a role, emphasizing the importance of minimizing exposure to these weight-promoting compounds.


Understanding Obesogens:

Obesogens are chemicals commonly present in food and household items, disrupting hormonal balance, including those regulating appetite and weight maintenance. Unfortunately, our surroundings are laden with these obesogenic compounds, found in foods, beverages, fragrances, can linings at grocery stores, and even certain prescription medications—often unbeknownst to the general populace.

These obesogens wreak havoc by interfering with hormones like leptin and insulin, crucial for appetite control and fat storage. Additionally, they may induce inflammation and harm to mitochondria, the energy-producing structures within cells. Exposure to obesogens during prenatal development in rodents enhances the fat-storing capacity of their cells, enabling them to expand and proliferate. This, in turn, increases the risk of adult overweight or obesity. The combination of more fat cells and larger fat cells poses health risks.


Locating Obesogens: Begin with Your Diet

Unfortunately, obesogenic substances are pervasive. Opting for organic fruits and vegetables becomes a prudent choice, given that certain pesticides disrupt hormones by mimicking estrogen's effects and interfering with thyroid function in pregnant animals and their offspring. Even with organic produce, exposure to obesogenic pesticides may occur through tap water, acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its hormone-altering impurities.

Non-organic meat and dairy products also serve as sources of obesogens. Animals raised for food are often treated with growth hormones that can enter the milk supply, potentially contributing to obesity. High-fructose corn syrup, prevalent in many processed foods, has been shown to alter leptin and insulin levels in animals, heightening appetite and facilitating fat storage.


Household Exposures to Obesogenic Compounds

Obesogenic compounds are not confined to the realm of food. Bisphenol-A (BPA), found in can linings and certain plastic items, including water bottles and children's toys, is a noteworthy source. Surprisingly, cash register receipts also contain BPAs. Non-stick cookware, lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is implicated as an endocrine disruptor and obesogen. PFOA is not limited to cookware; it is also used in carpeting, mattresses, and waterproof clothing. Fragranced items, from cleaning products to beauty items, often contain endocrine-disrupting phthalates.

 

Protecting Yourself from Obesogens

Minimizing exposure to obesogenic chemicals is especially crucial during pregnancy, as fetal exposure can impact weight control later in life. Consider the following tips to reduce obesogen exposure:


1.    Opt for fresh, organic produce, meat, and dairy when possible. Avoid processed foods and those packaged in plastic containers containing high-fructose corn syrup or BPA.

2.    Use stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic ones. Eliminate plastic containers from your kitchen and opt for fresh foods over canned options.

3.    Eschew non-stick cookware and use a light layer of olive oil to prevent sticking.

4.    Scrutinize labels on household and beauty products, seeking those free of phthalates and parabens. Choose mineral-based sunscreens over chemical ones, and avoid fragranced products unless scented with essential oils.

5.    Be cautious with farmed fish; opt for wild-caught varieties. If choosing canned salmon, soak it in water before use to mitigate potential BPA exposure.

6.    Consider installing a water filter on your faucet to reduce hormone-disrupting chemicals.


In conclusion, while you may not have complete control over your environmental exposures, taking proactive steps to minimize synthetic chemicals in your home and diet can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and waistline. Prioritize your health by staying mindful of your dietary and household choices.

 

 

References:

  • J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2011;14(5-7):423-48. doi:10.1080/10937404.2011. 578561.

  • Medscape Family Medicine. “Obesogens: An Environmental Link to Obesity”

  • Science Daily. “BPA Shown to Disrupt Thyroid Function in Pregnant Animals and Offspring”

  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Drinking Water: Risks to Human Health and the Environment” Annu. Rev. Med. 63: 329–43.


 

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