Healthy Living

Obesogens: The Chemical Makeup of Obesity

Obesogens: The Chemical Makeup of Obesity


It’s hard enough to stay healthy without causing the body to have chemically-induced fat responses, but the Battle of the Bulge is much more complicated than we ever knew. It’s now being understood that exposure to certain endocrine disruptors – or obesogens – during development can cause our bodies to reprogram themselves and become more predisposed to obesity.

The body’s fat cells have memory and, once fat, remember to be fat. The metabolic rate is modified and the body hoards calories rather than burning them off. This can explain why some people who eat and exercise the same as their friends are unable to drop the pounds as expected.

Obesogens: The Chemical Makeup of ObesityNot only do the chemicals cause estrogen mimicking leading to weight gain later in life, they also cause fat cell formation at any age.

Harvard School of Public Health noticed, in 2006, that babies were fat, without explanation. Since they were only eating formula and breast milk they had to look at something other than what they were eating. What they found was that when the body is exposed to certain chemicals it causes a shift on a fundamental level. Newsweek reported on a 2002 article by Dr, Paula Baillie-Hamilton, “Obesity rates, she noted in  The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, had risen in lockstep with the use of chemicals such as pesticides and plasticizers over the previous 40 years.”

While her research had many holes it caused some scientists to perk-up and take a closer look. They started to look at how chemicals affected the growth rate of cells and, specifically, obesity. Back to our old friend, bisphenol-A, was one study done by Japanese scientists where, when exposed to low levels of BPA (and other industrial compounds), the cells in lab dishes took on a completely different growth route – the route of becoming fat cells.  Jerry Heindel, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has done extensive research on endocrine disruptors and his findings are alarming. MSNBC quoted one of his studies : “We have data linking environmental chemicals to practically every major human disease, from cardiovascular disease to attention-deficit disorder.” In past decades – and no longer an acceptable descriptor – the term “glandular disorder” would be used to describe someone who didn’t have the ability to lose weight.

They might have been onto something. What scientists have found is that obesogens are taking over the endocrine system – endocrine disruptors – resulting in a population literally “heavy” in obesity rates. The rise in obese numbers follows the rise in use of industrial chemicals in the products we use on our bodies and in the foods we consume.

While Dr. Baillie-Hamilton might not have been able to back up her statements with research she was certainly onto something. Recent studies have supported that she was completely right. Even more concerning is that, because of the chemicals in our foods, it may no longer be possible to “eat the right foods” and lose weight.

If a person is eating vegetables and fish laden with industrial chemicals and, thus, loading-up the body with obesogens, changing the body’s endocrine system on a metabolic level, it would lead to the next logical hypothesis that a person can’t lose weight by diet and exercise alone. Not only do the chemicals cause estrogen mimicking leading to weight gain later in life, they also cause fat cell formation at any age. The foods that are consumed by the public are loaded with pesticides, either by the plastics that are used to store them, the cans that are used to house them, or the chemicals that are used to “protect” them.

The next question is: How do we limit exposure to these chemicals? The answer is obvious and one to which we usually return. Eat organic, all natural foods. While it may feel a little bit bleak in that, if we’ve already been exposed and changed on a molecular level why even bother? We can still stop exposing ourselves to harmful chemicals and saturating the already-damaged cells. Creating the healthiest environment possible for the future – in both the Earth and in our bodies – will also create the most optimal chance that our bodies and that of our children will have the least exposure to obesogens.

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