For decades, it’s been clear that poor eating habits and low activity levels can have an unhealthy effect on our weight. Now we’re learning that certain chemicals may have a similar effect.
Jeanett Tang-Péronard, a PhD candidate at the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen, Denmark, recently reviewed 24 studies on endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and obesity and found a correlation between chemical exposure and increased body size.
Specific EDCs, dubbed “obesogens,” include bisphenol A (often found in plastic water bottles and metal food cans), phthalates (found in some liquid soaps and adhesives), and PCBs (found in fish taken from contaminated waters), among others.
EDCs appear to interfere with the body’s natural weight-control mechanisms, says Tang-Péronard. “The results could include increased appetite, lowered metabolism and lowered motivation for physical activity.”
Obesogens can affect us at any stage of life, says Bruce Blumberg, PhD, a professor of developmental and cell biology at the University of California–Irvine, but pregnant women, children and adolescents should be especially cautious. “Exposures during these windows may have long-lasting effects,” Blumberg says.
While more research is needed to untangle the complex factors that contribute to obesity, Blumberg recommends bypassing plastic containers for food and beverage storage, reducing the use of canned foods, and eating local, organic food whenever possible.