What we eat matters, but new research shows that commonly found chemicals could make us fat by interfering with our hormones
The trend of rising obesity – particularly in babies and young children – cannot be explained by evolving diet and lifestyle alone.
Scientists are looking at chemicals as a possible contributor to the increasing number of obesity cases.
How can chemicals make us fat
Chemicals that interfere with how our bodies store and process fat are referred to as ‘obesogens.’
Obesogens reprogram how our cells work in two main ways: they can promote fat accumulation by increasing the number and size of fat cells or by increasing appetite, or they can make it more difficult to lose fat by changing our ability to burn calories.
Previous studies have identified these chemicals in many everyday products, such as pesticides, plastics, flame retardants, repellent coatings on kitchen utensils and clothes, and artificial sweeteners.
Related: Are pesticides making us fat?
How to avoid these chemicals
These chemicals can promote fat accumulation, by increasing the number and size of fat cells or by increasing appetite, or make it more difficult to lose fat by changing our ability to burn calories.
“Obesogens can be found almost everywhere, and our diet is a main source of exposure, as some pesticides and artificial sweeteners are obesogens,” says Ana Catarina Sousa, from the Universities of Aveiro and Beira Interior, Portugal. “Equally, they are present in plastics and home products, so completely reducing exposure is extremely difficult – but to significantly reduce it is not only feasible, but also very simple.”
Based on their review the researchers recommend the following ways of reducing obesogen exposure:
- Keep it fresh – Choose fresh food over processed products with long lists of ingredients on the label – the longer the list, the more likely the product is to contain obesogens.
- Take a pass on pesticides – Buy fruit and vegetables produced without pesticides, such as certified organic or local pesticide-free products
- Rethink plastic – Reduce your use of plastic, especially when heating or storing food. Instead, use glass or aluminium containers for your food and drinks.
- Slip shoes off at the door – Remove your shoes when entering the house to avoid bringing in contaminants on the sole of shoes.
- Suck it up – Vacuum often, using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters and dust your house frequently, using a damp cloth.
- Flooring counts – Remove or minimise carpeting at home or work, as it tends to accumulate more dust.
- Pick natural cleaning products – Avoid chemical cleaning products when possible, or choose those that do not contain obesogens.
“These are baby steps to achieve an obesogen-free lifestyle but a really good start. Essentially, watch your diet and get rid of the dust at home,” says Dr Sousa.”
Source: European Society of Endocrinology via www.sciencedaily.com
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