Over 12 million children are obese in the US alone. Over 78 million American adults are too. To say that obesity is an epidemic is an understatement.
And while a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are both playing a part, they’re not the only factors to consider.
Endocrine Disruptors and Weight Gain
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that are found in the environment and in our diet that affect the neuroendocrine system. They interact with a receptor, on synthesis or elimination of a hormone.
Multiple studies in both animals and humans have shown that foreign chemicals in our diet or environment can interfere with the complex signaling pathways of the neuroendocrine causing adverse side effects like weight gain.
Obesogens are endocrine disruptors found in our food and our environment that specifically affect lipid accumulation and adipogenesis, which is the formation of fat. They interact with our genes and gene pathways, and can cause us to gain weight.
There is currently evidence that exposure to obesogens during pregnancy can even promote adipogenesis in the baby when it reaches adulthood.
Here are some examples of obesogens that we are dealing with on a daily basis:
- BPA is widely used in industrial and consumer products
- It is used to make resins and polycarbonate plastics
- It is commonly found in plastic storage and heating containers and used to line metal cans
- It leaches into food and can also be found in the air
- BPA has been shown to interact with various hormone systems including the thyroid, estrogens, and androgens
- One of its effects is that it inhibits the release of adiponectin, which is known to protect the body against metabolic syndrome
- Phthalates are synthetic organic compounds found in plastics, cosmetic and personal care products, toys, lubricants, detergents, food packaging, wall coverings and so on
- Human studies have shown a positive correlation between urinary phthalate levels and increased waistlines
- Phthalates have also shown to be a major androgen disruptor in animal and human studies
- Chemicals such as tributyltin (TBT), monobutyltin (MBT), and triphenyltin (TPT) are found widely in the environment
- They are used in the wood industry, water systems, and as fungicides in food
- It has been suggested that organotins act by activating nuclear receptors in the cells that play a significant role in adipogenesis
- They also disrupt the balance of testosterone and estrogen, and increase levels of cortisol
What Can You Do?
No matter how hard you try, everyone is exposed to some obesogens and endocrine disruptors. But we can try to minimize our exposure and maximize our body’s efforts to get rid of these toxins.
- Avoid plastic containers, even ones that are BPA-free. Start using glass or stainless steel containers for food and other household items as much as possible. Plastic water bottles are especially bad, while even BPA-free plastics have endocrine disruptors.
- Avoid plastic baby’s cups and children’s cups. Check out your local health food store for stainless steel alternatives.
- Drink filtered water as much as possible to filter out heavy metals.
- Don’t use pesticides and insecticides on your yard and garden.
- Opt for cast iron or stainless steel cookware instead of non-stick pots and pans.
- Remove your shoes at the door to avoid bringing in outside chemicals into your homes. Vacuum and dust your home regularly.
- Avoid plastic toys, especially ones that include words like vinyl, PVC or #3 recycling code.
- Buy organic food as much as possible to limit your exposure to pesticides.
- Try to promote fat loss with a more nutrient dense diet. Because toxic agents are store in fat cells, losing fat will also help you limit your endogenous exposure. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor or Healthcare provider to ensure safety and efficacy.
- Avoid junk food and processed foods. Processed foods are usually manufactured and packaged with many chemicals that act as obesogens and other endocrine disruptors.
- Eat a whole food diet rich with fresh organic vegetables and fruits.
- Stay hydrated. Water is an excellent way to flush out toxins.
- Exercise weekly. Light exercise daily helps increase blood flow, reduce adiposity, and helps improve your body’s detoxification efforts
- Visit a sauna 2-3 times a week. Infrared saunas heat up your tissues and enhance metabolic pathways, increase circulation, and promote detoxification
- Focus on liver-friendly foods to improve detoxification of chemicals. These include the Brassica family of vegetables (kale, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts), dandelion greens, beets, and spices such as turmeric
1) Garcia-Mayor RV, Vidal AL, Caamano MFD, Gimenez AL. Endocrine disruptors and Obesity: Obesogens. Endocrinology and Nutrition, 2012. Vol 59(4): 261-267
2) Stahlhut, RW, Wijngaarden EV, Dye TD, Cook S, Swan SH. Concentrations of Urinary Phthalate Metabolites Are Associated with Increased Waist Circumference and Insulin Resistance in Adult U.S. Males. Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Jun; 115(6): 876–882.
3) Grun F, Blumberg B. Environmental obesogens: organotins and endocrine disruption via nuclear receptor signaling. Endocrinology. 2006 Jun;147(6 Suppl):S50-5
4) Kellner J. 14 Ways to Reduce Your Obesogen Intake. Mother Earth Living. http://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/mind-and-body/reduce-obesogen-intake-zm0z1401zpit.aspx
5) Obesity Facts. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/facts.html
6) Pizzorno J, Murray, M. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th Ed. Churchill Livingstone. 2012. Chapter 53: 475-487.
7) Gaby A. Nutritional Medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, 2011. Chapter 333: 1262-1265.
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