Obesogens – Toxins Linked to Obesity

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It’s long been known that processed foods containing refined carbohydrates, salt, sugar and trans-fats contribute to metabolic disorders such as high cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight gain, but only since the early 2000’s have another group of additives and chemicals come into this discussion, namely ‘Obesogens’.

In the words of Robert H. Lustig, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, “Even those at the lower end of the BMI [body mass index] curve are gaining weight. Whatever is happening is happening to everyone, suggesting an environmental trigger.” (1) 

Many in the medical and exercise physiology communities remain firmly fixed to ‘poor diet and lack of exercise’ as the sole causes of obesity. However, researchers are gathering convincing evidence of chemical ‘obesogens’ dietary, pharmaceutical, and industrial compounds that may alter metabolic processes and predispose some people to gain weight. (1) 

Convincing evidence suggests that diet and activity level are not the only factors in this trend—chemical ‘obesogens’ may alter human metabolism and predispose some people to gain weight. Fetal and early-life exposures to certain obesogens may alter some individuals’ metabolism and fat-cell makeup for life. Other obesogenic effects are linked to adulthood exposures. (1) 

The role of environmental chemicals in obesity has garnered increased attention in academic and policy spheres, and was recently acknowledged by the Presidential Task Force on Childhood Obesity and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Strategic Plan for Obesity Research. (1) 

What are Obesogens?

Foods are the main source of obesogens. Some obesogens occur naturally in food, but most are environmental chemicals, entering food as a foreign substance, whether in the form of contaminants or additives, and they are used in a large amount in highly processed food. (2) 

Human activities have polluted water, soil, and foods. Obesogens are currently contained in many products for daily use, e.g., personal care products, cosmetics, cleaners, toys, kitchen utensils, plastic curtains and table cloths, soft furnishings, furniture, mattresses, and clothes. (2)

Obesogens are chemicals that directly or indirectly increase fat accumulation and cause obesity. The obesogenic hypothesis further suggests that obesogens can act directly at the cellular level to increase the commitment or differentiation of adipocytes from stem cells by altering the number of adipocytes, increasing the retention of triglycerides within adipocytes, or modifying the rate of adipocyte proliferation when compared to cell death. Furthermore, obesogens can act indirectly as well by changing resting metabolic rate, shifting energy balance to favor calorie storage, and modulating food intake and metabolism via effects on the adipose tissue, brain, liver, pancreas, muscle, and gastrointestinal tract. (2)

Most known or suspected obesogens are endocrine (hormonal) disruptors. Many are widespread, and exposures are suspected or confirmed to be quite common. In one 2010 study, Kurunthachalam Kannan, a professor of environmental sciences at the University at Albany, State University of New York, documented organotins in a designer handbag, wallpaper, vinyl blinds, tile, and vacuum cleaner dust collected from 24 houses. Phthalates, plasticizers that also have been related to obesity in humans, occur in many PVC items as well as in scented items such as air fresheners, laundry products, and personal care products. (1)

Another suspected obesogen: bisphenol A (BPA), which is found in medical devices, in the lining of some canned foods, and in cash register receipts. BPA reduces the number of fat cells but programs them to incorporate more fat, so there are fewer but very large fat cells. (1) 

Also a culprit is PFOA, a surfactant used for reduction of friction, and it is also used in nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, Scotchgard, stain repellent on carpeting, mattresses, and microwavable food items. (1)

This is only a short list, as there may literally be thousands of Obesogens. 


 With all the controversy around detox diets, going organic, plant-based diets, and detoxification in general, it still seems pretty obvious that doing a cleanse program would be the best solution to many of life’s ills, including obesity. Going back to basics and keeping it simple as one of the best ways you can promote healing in your body.

Using natural herbs instead of pharmaceuticals wherever possible there’s another factor to consider. Yet another simple mistake, which has been overlooked for far too long by a medical system.

All we really need is provided by nature, and that’s the secret to long-term health.

Read more about detoxing and herbs on this website and continue your healing journey today.

© Brett Elliott 2022


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