Do Toxins in the Environment Make You Obese?
The adage that obesity is the sole result of excessive caloric intake and insufficient physical activity is undoubtedly true, but there’s a lot of evidence which suggests that how your body metabolizes calories relies on a lot of unusual variables:
Although it is self-evident that fat cannot be accumulated without a higher caloric intake than expenditure, recent research in a number of laboratories suggests the existence of chemicals that alter regulation of energy balance to favor weight gain and obesity. These obesogens derail the homeostatic mechanisms important for weight control, such that exposed individuals are predisposed to weight gain, despite normal diet and exercise.
“Obesogen” is the term that refers to chemicals you ingest incidentally which promote fat storage. They’re not added directly to food, but you consume them through indirect exposure. For example an obesogen called DEHP is a chemical that’s leached into food due to contact with plastic during the manufacturing process for many foods.
Types of Obesogens
Classes of obesogens include, but are not limited to:
- Phthalates – a class of chemical compounds used to soften plastics used in surface repellents. Phthalates tend to negatively impact your baseline level of fat metabolism.
- Organotins – Organic pollutants found in PVC plastics, pesticides, and industrial water systems. TBT is a common organotin that’s been linked to heightened fat tissue accumulation in infants.
- Xenoestrogens – Estrogen mimicking chemicals that alter the endocrine system in harmful ways. Bisphenol A is the most famous xenoestrogen, and most humans usually ingest it in harmful quantities.
When they enter your body, they work in a similar manner to pharmaceutical drugs by targeting fat mediating hormones and receptors. Some research suggests long term metabolic set points can be heavily altered if you have a high amount of exposure to obesogen like compounds in the womb.
Overall, the idea that your body’s ability to keep a healthy weight is deeply influenced by indirect exposure to a variety of chemicals that are essential to the industrial process is troublesome. Their breadth of use creates “neighborhood effects” that make exposure all but inevitable, even for the pickiest of consumers.