What Are Obesogens? How Do They Affect You?

Obesity Epidemic

Obesogens are foreign chemical compounds that disrupt normal development and balance of lipid metabolism, which in some cases, can lead to obesity.

Each year more and more new resolutions are made to “lose weight”, “eat healthy”, or “stick to my diet plan”; and every year, thousands of people who make those same resolutions end up going back to their bad habits shortly after the new year begins. The obesity rates in the United States are staggering, with diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure becoming more prevalent among adults and children. According to the CDC statistics, obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Not only are children at risk, but also 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. (around 80 million) are considered obese!

Obesity is defined as having excess body fat, and can lead to a variety of illnesses and life-threatening diseases. Being overweight and obese can also increase risk for some cancers. Although these problems are prevalent, many people act haphazardly about their health and eating habits. Different lifestyle factors, as well as environmental factors, are many times ignored; which can create a bigger hole to climb out of in terms of weight gain.


The Problem Is Not With Just Diet & Exercise

Overly prescribed and found in many foods, antibiotics can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Very useful for treating bacterial infections throughout the body, antibiotics can act as effective, life-saving medications. However, the same bacteria fighting mechanism that makes them great at fighting infection also can cause major downfalls for healthy bacteria (probiotics) throughout the gut. These healthy bacteria found in the gut have recently gained vast recognition as medical research has pointed to them as a hidden key to weight loss. Antibiotics kill them off along with bad bacteria. To replace the healthy bacteria, I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Probiotic Formula.

CNN report stated, “the gut is your body’s gatekeeper, letting in helpful compounds and evicting harmful ones. It’s home to 70 to 80% of our immune cells. When the gut is in good shape, our systems run efficiently; but when it’s not, we may experience upset stomach, be at risk for weight gain or digestive problems like heartburn and constipation, or just feel vaguely out of sorts.” It is imperative that we maintain the balance within our gut, otherwise the entire core of our body and waste removal system will become highly ineffective and create many problems. Not only should we avoid overuse of antibiotics from medication, but we should also avoid eating foods such as livestock products that have been pumped with antibiotics. These types of antibiotics are used for both promotion of growth, as well as to ward off disease.


What All Goes Into The Equation?

What we put into our bodies is the main theme of factors that affect weight loss. Just as important as the decision of “what types of foods to eat”, is the decision on “what is in my food.” Artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and growth hormones commonly used in our food supply today make a huge impact on how our bodies process food and what nutrients we absorb.


Artificial Sweeteners Deceive Your Body

CBC news recently reported on artificial sweeteners and diet soda being linked to weight gain and obesity. Diet soda or artificial sweeteners are often chosen by dieters due to their low caloric value, however there is research that suggests these actually raise blood sugar levels and interfere with the important microbes in the gut. These conditions are linked to diabetic conditions and can also increase our craving for sugar.

Harvard School of Public Health reports, “At the University of California-San Diego, researchers performed functional MRI scans as volunteers took small sips of water sweetened with sugar or sucralose. Sugar activated regions of the brain involved in food reward, while sucralose didn’t.” The report suggests that sucralose does not satisfy cravings, and the human brain responds to the sweetness with signals to eat more. This can create more caloric intake in the long run as the body craves more natural sweetness and could cause a person who is dieting to actually binge eat and crave sweets.


Growth Hormones Also Grow Your Belly

Another additive that many people don’t realize could have serious health backlash is growth hormones in food products. Not only do antibiotics make their way into many animals’ diet that are then processed for consumption, but hormonal additives in livestock (as well as dairy products) have caused major debate about health risks.

First of all, it is important to note that hormones are found in all animal products whether or not the animal has been treated with hormonal supplements. The amount of supplements and additives that are considered safe in food products is determined by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the Food and Agricultural Organization and World Health Organization (FAO/WHO). Most livestock are given hormonal supplements to help with their overall growth and with milk production. Commonly used steroids include: estradiol, testosterone, progesterone and bovine growth hormone (rBGH).

It’s important to understand how these hormones affect humans when they are consumed through animal products. Research into long term effects is ongoing.

Critics suggest that supplements such as Insulin Growth Factor (IGF-1) which naturally occurs in both cattle and humans, can be absorbed through consumption of milk. Higher levels of this hormone, as well as high levels of estrogen, may be associated with increased risk of some cancers. The link, however, has not been proven.


How Pesticides Add To Obesity

Another important factor to note that may be causing health risks and weight gain may be prevalent in everyday household materials. Pesticides are used on many food products and can cause disruption to the healthy gut bacteria discussed earlier. These chemicals disrupt the function of the normal endocrine (hormone) system and are known as obesogens.

Pesticides Can Make You Fat

Latest research suggests the link between these types of chemicals in the environment and daily lives (through food or pollutants). The journal Environmental Health Perspectives, finds that “persistent organic pollutants, including some synthetic pesticides, accumulate in fat cells where they play a role in metabolic syndrome and obesity.” In America alone, six billion pounds of obesogen BPA and one billion pounds of phthalates (plastic softeners) are created each day. Absorption of these “obesogens” occurs after consuming foods which contain them, as measured by blood, saliva, and urine samples.


Where Do These Pollutants “Live?”

(Adapted from CBS news):

In your fridge: pesticides and PCBs

  • Non organic peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots, pears
  • Unsustainable fish: farm-raised salmon
  • Corn/soy-fed beef and chicken

In your pantry: plastic compounds (in particular BPA)

  • Lining of canned foods such as canned tuna, soup, beans and tomatoes.
  • Lining of canned beverages such as energy drinks, baby formula and sports drink bottles.


The bottom line is knowing what exactly is being put into your body. Whether it is artificial sweeteners, hormones, plastic pollutants, or antibiotics, your body should be optimized for maximum health.

Environmental factors also affect the ability of the body to create balances in the endocrine system. I recommend you try and focus on eating natural, organic, whole foods. If you’d like to learn more about how obesogens affect your body weight and overall health, I suggest reading The New American Diet by Stephen Perrine.

By bringing awareness to these factors, weight loss and combating obesity becomes a conversation rather than a diet fad. The path to healthy, happy individuals is a bigger picture than exercise and eating right. It’s more so about knowing how to protect your body against harmful chemicals and choosing the best, most nutritious food available.


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