The U.S. adult obesity rate is 42.4 percent, the highest percentage rate ever recorded. The obesity epidemic isn’t isolated to Americans— developing countries are also struggling to keep their weight under control.
But, if obesity is simply an equation of diet and exercise, why are pets, laboratory animals, and urban rats getting bigger?
There is growing evidence that suggests that obesity has an environmental trigger.
In 2002, Paula F. Baillie-Hamilton, M.B., B.S., D.Phil., a metabolism expert, first linked chemical toxins and obesity.
Then in 2003, Bruce Blumberg, a biology professor at the University of California, Irvine discovered a causal link between increased weight and tributyltin, a wood preservative used for ship keels left in the ocean. Tributyltin is an endocrine disruptor that can cause sex reversion in fish. Blumberg and his team discovered that tributyltin activated a hormone receptor PPAR gamma, which “regulates the fate of stromatolite multipotent stem cells to predispose them to produce fat instead of bone tissue.”
In 2006, Blumberg coined the term “obesogen.”
What are obesogens?
Obesogens are xenobiotic chemicals that disrupt normal developmental and homeostatic controls over adipogenesis and energy balance.
In other words, they are metabolic disruptors. Most known or suspected obesogens are endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that can interfere with hormone action in any way.
Obesogens encourage adiposity, the state of being fat, according to a paper published by Blumberg in 2017. They do this by reprogramming adipogenesis or fat cell development, increasing energy storage in fat tissue, and interfering with neuroendocrine control of appetite and satiety in experimental animals (and, it is assumed, humans).
The study of obesogens is still in its infancy but is expected to have implications for prenatal and postnatal care, which predisposes children to obesity or not. It will also have ramifications for the management and prevention of obesity and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions (increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels) that put people at greater risk of serious disease.
Obesogen chemicals may include phytoestrogens (found in soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas), organotin (fungicides used to treat wood for building materials), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (air pollutants), Bisphenol A (BPA) (found in some plastics including food and beverage containers), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) (flame retardants used to treat fabrics or furniture), phthalates (plasticizing agents found in cosmetics, medicines, and paint), parabens (preservatives found in food, paper products, and medicines), pesticides (used in agricultural industries), and alkylphenol (a type of surfactant and thickener that are used in many consumer goods, such as rubber or paint).
What is obesogenicity?
Obesogenicity is defined as ‘the sum of influences that the surroundings, opportunities, or conditions of life have on promoting obesity in individuals or populations’ in an environment.’
What is an obesogenic environment?
An obesogenic environment is a home or workplace that does not support weight loss or healthy behaviors but rather promotes weight gain because of issues like lack of access to healthy food and places for physical activity.
How do you remove obesogens?
Organic pollutants, also known as POPs, remain in our environments, food supply, and fat cells for generations, often lingering in estrogen-sensitive organs such as the breasts and prostate.
To decrease exposure to these chemicals, you can avoid fruits and veggies most laden with pesticides (strawberries, spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, nectarines, apples, and grapes), select non-GMO products, and choose free-range or organic meats.
Other detox efforts include storing leftovers in glass containers (instead of plastic) and never reheating leftovers in plastic.
Are there obesogen detox routines?
Artificial chemical compounds disorder the development and equilibrium of lipid metabolism.
You can minimize exposure to these metabolism-disrupting chemicals by reducing exposure to chemicals and reducing your post-exposure accumulation. To reduce exposure, you can opt for toxin-free food, cosmetics, and household products and stay knowledgeable about air quality conditions.
A nutrient-dense anti-inflammatory diet can also help to combat obesity. Omega-3s and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant in green tea, can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation resulting from certain chemical exposure.