Obesogens in Plastic Linked to Weight Gain & Diabetes Dr. Alexe

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Obesogens in Plastic Linked to Weight Gain & Diabetes – Obesity and diabetes have risen steadily in the United States over the past recent decades. 35% of adults and 17% of children aged 2-19 are obese. And those numbers are expected to only increase. Obesity and diabetes do not just plague the united states, but worldwide we are seeing record diabetes and obesity rates. In fact, even animals – pets, lab animals, and urban rats are experiencing an increase in body weight and blood sugar problems. It appears that everyone is gaining weight and getting diabetes. 

We blame our weight gain on eating too many fats, sugars, and not getting in enough exercise, but science is discovering that chemicals we are exposed to every day in our food, air, and water play a big part in the obesity epidemic. In 2011, the NIH launched a 3-year effort to fund research exploring the role of environmental chemical exposures in obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and metabolic syndrome and there is a burst of new data in the last 5 years. So, what’s going on?

There’s a new classification of chemicals that appear to sabotage your ability to regulate weight, regulate your appetite, and regulate your blood sugar. Obesogens are chemicals that can promote obesity by increasing the number of fat cells, changing the metabolic rate, and altering hormones that control satiety and appetite. These hormones disrupting chemicals can increase your fat cells, alter how you burn calories, and even alter the way your body perceives, and manages hunger.

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How Obesogens Work in the Body

–   They reprogram your body cells to become fat cells and encourage your body to store fat.  In studies, obesogenic chemicals appeared to have activated peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), the master regulator of adipogenesis, the process of creating adipocytes, or fat cells. 

–   Prevent an appetite reducing hormone called Leptin from being released from your fat cells. This is important because Leptin signals to your body that you are full.

–   Promotes insulin resistance which makes the pancreas release more insulin that turns energy into more fat in the body. 

Where Obesogens are Found

•   Water bottles, cans, and receipts: Bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen that’s used to make plastics hard and in the lining of cans, has been shown to increase insulin resistance in animal studies. BPA has also been shown to increase abdominal fat and glucose intolerance.

•   Nonstick pans and microwave popcorn: Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a potential endocrine disruptor, and known PPARγ agonist. It’s a widespread chemical and pretty much everyone in the U.S. has it in their blood. This chemical used to make items non-stick has been shown to lead to obesity and altered Leptin levels which dysregulates metabolism and appetite in animals. It can also affect the thyroid gland, which importantly regulates weight and metabolism. This chemical is found in Teflon coated pans, carpets, pizza boxes, and microwave popcorn bags.

•   Air fresheners and shower curtains: Phthalates, are chemicals that are found in fragrance products such as air fresheners and vinyl products such as shower curtains, vinyl flooring, and plastic wrap. Phthalates have been shown to lower metabolism and testosterone, causing you to lose muscle mass and increase fat.   Phthalates also increased waist circumference and insulin resistance in adult U.S. males.

•   Water: Many chemical pesticides find their way into your tap water. Atrazine is an herbicide and the main obesogen in tap water and has been found to cause mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin resistance. This pesticide was banned in Europe, but not in the United States. Atrazine affects your thyroid by slowing down thyroid hormone metabolism. Tributyltin (TBT), a wood preservative and a fungicide painted on the bottom of boats, is considered an obesogen as has been shown to stimulate fat cell production. 

Male mice exposed to low doses of TBT for 45 days show excess weight gain, high insulin levels, and fatty liver. These findings suggest that TBT exposure may lead to obesity, insulin resistance, and fatty liver disease even at very low doses. Mice chronically exposed to TBT had pancreatic beta-cell death, lower insulin levels, and high blood glucose levels.

How to Avoid Obesogens

•   Use glass or aluminum water bottles. If you must get plastic make sure it states its BPA free plastic bottles.

•   Get rid of your Teflon or non-stick pans. Opt for ceramic or steel pans to cook in.

•   Eliminate chemical air fresheners and opt for natural essential oils instead.

•   Eat fewer foods out of a can. opt for fresh or frozen instead. Some manufacturers now offer BPA free cans.

•   Eat meat and milk products that are hormone and antibiotic-free. Keep in mind that chemicals concentrate more in animal products than in plants.  Buy wild-caught fish instead of farm-raised.

•   Install water filters on your faucet to filter out chemicals such as atrazine. 

Being that there is more and more evidence that chemicals play a big role in diabetes and weight gain, it would be encouraged to attempt to limit exposure as much as possible to these obesogenic chemicals. If you are diabetic, there are additional blood tests (and urine) your health care provider can order to evaluate levels of obesogenic chemicals and toxins in your body. See a qualified healthcare practitioner.

Photo: Shutterstock    

Sources:

1.   2. Flegal KM, et al. Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999–2008. JAMA. 2010;303(3):235–241. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2009.2014 [online 17 Jan 2012] [PubMed]

2.   Flegal KM, et al. Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999–2010. JAMA. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2012.39 [online 17 Jan 2012]. [PubMed]

3.   Ogden CL, et al. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999–2010. JAMA. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2012.40 [online 17 Jan 2012]. [PubMed]

4.   Evans, Ronald M. “PPARs and the Complex Journey to Obesity.” The Keio Journal of Medicine, vol. 53, no. 2, 2004, pp. 53–58., DOI:10.2302/kjm.53.53.

5.   PA-12-185: Role of Environmental Chemical Exposures in the Development of Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome (R01).” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-12-185.html.

6.   Lim, Soo, et al. “Chronic Exposure to the Herbicide, Atrazine, Causes Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Insulin Resistance.” PLoS ONE, vol. 4, no. 4, 2009, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0005186.

7.   Zuo, Zhenghong, et al. “Tributyltin Causes Obesity and Hepatic Steatosis in Male Mice.”Environmental Toxicology, vol. 26, no. 1, 2011, pp. 79–85., DOI:10.1002/tox.20531.

8.   Stahlhut R, et al. Concentrations of urinary phthalate metabolites are associated with increased waist circumference and insulin resistance in adult U.S. males. Environ Health Perspect. 2007;115(6):876–882. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.9882 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

9.   White, Sally S., et al. “Endocrine Disrupting Properties of Perfluorooctanoic Acid.” The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, vol. 127, no. 1-2, 2011, pp. 16–26., DOI:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2011.03.011.

10. Pu, Yong, et al. “Sex-Specific Modulation of Fetal Adipogenesis by Gestational Bisphenol A and Bisphenol S Exposure.” Endocrinology, vol. 158, no. 11, 2017, pp. 3844–3858., DOI:10.1210/en.2017-00615.

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