Healthy weight management is often a challenge. Even when you do all the right things with a healthy diet and exercise, you can still struggle with being overweight. If calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, and/or increased physical exercise have left you feeling weak and defeated, take some time to evaluate “obesogens” hidden in your surroundings, foods, and beverages.
Obesity is a health problem in the United States and elsewhere around the globe. The rise in obesity correlates with many factors – shift work, sedentary lifestyles, sleep deprivation, high stress, and more. Perhaps the most subtle factor in developing obesity is the presence of “endocrine disrupting compounds” (EDCs) in the food, water, air and soil. These chemical compounds are stored in fat cells and disrupt metabolism and is the basis for the “obesogen hypothesis.”
Obesogen Hypothesis Effects
The “obesogen hypothesis” points to several endocrine disrupting compounds, foods and additives that disrupt the natural function of your metabolism and endocrine function. EDCs look and act like your body’s own natural hormones, but they are not. These man-made compounds promote obesity and are called “obesogens.”
Obesogens promote fat accumulation and obesity. They affect appetite control and satiety. Obesogens change your basal metabolic rate and cause your body to retain calories.
Obesogens impede healthy function of your brain, gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, and thyroid, etc. Obesogens are a primary risk factor for build-up of fatty liver along with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, cholesterol and blood sugar dysregulation, and increased blood pressure.
Exposure to EDCs and obesogens during pregnancy and early childhood development affects a person’s metabolic set point into adulthood. Chronic exposures can cause cells to be more likely to store fat later in life. It can even affect genetic expression and metabolic function for future generations.
Greatest Source of Obesogenic Compounds
Scientists have determined that some of the greatest sources of obesogenic compounds are in highly processed foods The trend of obesity correlates with increased presence and consumption of packaged, processed foods and the food manufacturing industry in the last several decades. Highlighted below are three compounds in the food supply that are considered obesogens.
Fructose poses a significant concern to metabolism and obesity, especially when it is added to foods. Fructose rich foods include processed foods and beverages with added high fructose corn syrup. It is also found as added pure fructose, fructose-glucose mixtures, and sucrose. Sucrose or table sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose and is often found in processed foods. It is commonly extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets.
High fructose intake is associated with fat around your internal organs, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease. It promotes leptin resistance. High fructose intake also enhances salt absorption and worsens high blood pressure from salt sensitivity.
Over 20 years ago, research demonstrated that for children, each daily glass or can of a beverage with added fructose increased their chances of becoming obese in adulthood by up to six times. Think about how much sugar sweetened beverages you or your children consume in a month or a year.
Foods naturally rich in fructose pose less of a factor but can still be problematic if included with other obesogens, a sedentary lifestyle, and/or fructose intolerance. Foods naturally rich in fructose include honey, agave syrup, maple-flavored syrup, molasses, palm or coconut sugar, sorghum, and juices, apples, watermelon, grapes, asparagus, peas, and zucchini. Consider your total body burden and exposure with natural fructose relative to other obesogens, lifestyle, and overall health.
A sedentary lifestyle worsens the obesogenic effects of fructose containing sweeteners and foods. Regular exercise mitigates it.
Genistein is a natural phytoestrogen found in foods made with soy and as a food supplement. Studies have showed that low dietary intake of genistein induced fat cell deposition with increased insulin resistance – especially in men. High intake of genistein however did not cause weight gain in women.
Food additives and preservatives may also contribute to obesity as endocrine disrupting compounds. Monosodium glutamate, a common flavor enhancer, is linked with obesity. More information on MSG may be found in the article Hidden Effects of MSG.
Carrageenan may also contribute to weight gain and insulin resistance. Research however is controversial. Carrageenan is commonly used as a thickening agent in ice cream, chocolate milk, and milk shakes.
In addition to food ingredients, several types of medications are also considered to be obesogens. These include some antidiabetics (insulin, sulphonylureas, thiazolidinediones, glitazones), some antidepressants, (tricyclics, SSRI’s, and atypical antipsychotics), antiseizure meds, estrogens (HRT, birth control, diethylstilbesterol (DES), estradiol, Rosiglitazone), glucocorticoids/steroids, dopaminergic blockers, beta sympathetic blockers, thyreostatics, neuropeptides, and gastrointestinal tract eutonics.
DES is rarely used with humans since the 1970’s, but it is used in the livestock industry to enhance fertility. This obesogen may be found in the food supply.
Check with your pharmacist and the drug information sheet provided with your prescription for more information about adverse effects.
Disinfectants in the Water Supply
Since 1974, there are now over 800 disinfectant byproducts identified in drinking water, shower/bath, swimming pool, and waste waters sources that are endocrine disrupting compounds and obesogens.
Chlorines, fluorides, bisphenols and other chemicals found in the water supply disturb hormone receptors sites, function, synthesis, and feedback regulations. They disrupt communication links between the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals, thyroid, and gonads (HPA, HPT, and HPG) in humans. These compounds also affect your pets, livestock, aquatic life, and wildlife.
Several other environmental obesogens contribute to the risk and development of obesity. These include Bisphenol A and other bisphenols, Organotins, Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOAs), phthalates, Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), Polychlorinated Biphenyl Ethers (PCBs), Chlorpyrifos, and pesticides (diazinon, DDT, DDE), Benzo(a) pyrene and triclosan.
Here are some sources of these ubiquitous compounds.
• BPA and other bisphenols are found in polycarbonate plastics, epoxy resins and thermopaper. These compounds are found in automobiles, food and water containers, baby bottles, medical plastics, and toys.
• Organotins are chemicals commonly used as biocides in paint, disinfectants, and pesticides.
• PFOAs are intermediates of Teflon, the non-stick coating surface. It is also found in cosmetics, personal care products, and the environment.
• Phthalates are compounds used to make plastics soft and flexible and are used ubiquitously. Packaging materials, cosmetics, insecticides, adhesives, toys, automobiles, and much more contain phthalates.
• PBDEs exist in electronics, furniture, building materials, plastics, vehicles, and textile materials. PCBs are used for industrial use in paints, varnishes, plastics, pesticides, and coolants.
• Benzo(a)pyrene is produced with smoking, grilling or burning foods and is found in smoke.
• Triclosan is a common antibacterial agent found in personal care items like antibacterial hand soap, toothpastes, toothbrushes, oral care products, and kitchen breadboards.
Tips to Manage Obesogen Exposure
Here are several tips to help you manage the challenge of obesogens. Remember that preborn, young children and preteens are most susceptible to these concerns as they affect their development and metabolic genetic programming for life and future generations. Be as diligent as you can for their sake and during family planning stages.
1. Choose whole, unrefined foods for at least 80 percent or more of your diet and for your family too.
2. Filter your drinking and bathing water.
3. Avoid packaged foods with added high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, or high sucrose intake, MSG, or ingredients that you don’t understand. These foods can be tempting and addictive, but it is not worth the long-term cost to your health.
4. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages – soda pop, iced teas, sports beverages, energy drinks, sweetened juices or large amounts of natural fruit/vegetable juices, etc. Take time to fully read the label.
5. Learn to cook using whole foods with dishes and pans that are safe for long-term use such as glass or PFAO free products.
6. Use glass storage containers instead of plastic. Do not cook with plastic. Even if it is a BPA free plastic container, other bis-phenol plastics still can disrupt cellular function. Avoid plastic storage containers as much as possible especially with hot foods, microwave cooking or reheats, and highly acidic foods like tomatoes.
7. Sweating helps your body detoxify toxins. This may be done with vigorous exercise or the use of a sauna. Infrared saunas provide wonderful, therapeutic heat without the temperature overwhelm that steam saunas can induce.
8. Replace your fire retardant filled, synthetic mattress with a natural organic wool, cotton, or latex mattress. Wool is a natural fire retardant. It can help improve sleep quality too! Think about your children’s mattresses too!
9. House dust has been found to contain many of these endocrine disrupting chemicals. When was the last time you dusted your home or office? Or had your air ducts cleaned in your home or work environment? Wool mattresses retard dust mite growth.
10. Consider restricting foods that contain carrageenan. Read the labels of your ice cream, dairy and non-dairy products. You may find it hidden in the added ingredients list. Choose healthier alternatives or try making your own ice cream or beverages.
11. Use support such as Daily Detoxify, I3C+DIM, Glutathione Ultra, Fiber Helper, Super Dophilus, and/or Daily Protector Eye & Immune to help your liver, digestive tract, and cells manage the daily exposure of toxins. Strive for at least 25 – 35 grams of dietary fiber per day to help your gut flora manage toxins.
12. Support such as Thyoid Helper, Stress Helper, Leptinal, Cinnamon Plus, and Iosol Iodine may be used to enhance various aspects of endocrine function.
Some scientists suggest that obesogens and endocrine disrupting compounds are an “emerging” threat to human health. I suggest that the threat is here and has been present for decades. It’s only in recent years that it is more readily recognized that the man-made chemical soup we are engulfed in has created a conundrum. Start by changing your environment and personal choices with healthier options.
More information may be found in these articles