What are obesogens?

Living things are delicate, resilient and tenacious.  Their chemistry is fascinating.  We are molecular machines, in a sense, and fine tuned to interact with the external world.  The chemical systems that make us who and what we are took many millions of years to develop.  It is incredible that we are now able to synthesize molecules by ingenuity.  Chemical engineering, pharmaceutical companies and even the much maligned agrochemical industry have, and are, incredibly important to where we stand now.  The drugs, and even pesticides, that have been produced have saved countless lives. It is just now that we have calmed down a little from the excitement of synthesizing new molecules, and started looking at the unintended effects these new molecules have on biochemistry.  Things that alter our biochemistry can alter our health.   Sometimes they can alter the developmental paths we follow in utero. It would be wonderful if inadvertent exposures to new molecules had beneficial effects.  Its possible.  As with most things, the good things that happen by accident usually go unnoticed. However, as in most situations, it is far easier to be destructive than constructive. 

So, back to the post title: what are obesogens?

Obesity can make your life harder than it needs to be

Obesogens are chemicals that change the way fats (lipids) are handled.  Exposure, especially early in life, may influence patterns of fat distribution, the way the body uses fat, and/or the way fat is synthesized.  It is possible that some chemicals might make us develop as lean, fat burning machines.  This would be a huge problem if we ever have a famine, but that is not our current issue.  Obesity, and its associated health problems, is on the rise.  Some of the chemicals that may be acting as obesogens in people are:

Organotins (used in marine paints, production of plastics, pesticides. Exposure may come through seafood, produce, drinking water and plastics.

Bisphenol A (BPA): from plastics.

Phthalates: from plastics

 Perfluoroalkyll compounds (PFCs): water repellant fabrics, stain preventing treatments.

How to avoid obesogens.

Avoid plastics when possible.  Avoid fabrics treated with water repellants or stain blockers.  Avoid carpet treatments.  

Grün F, & Blumberg B (2006). Environmental obesogens: organotins and endocrine disruption via nuclear receptor signaling. Endocrinology, 147 (6 Suppl) PMID: 16690801
 

Thayer KA, Heindel JJ, Bucher JR, & Gallo MA (2012). Role of environmental chemicals in diabetes and obesity: a National Toxicology Program workshop review. Environmental health perspectives, 120 (6), 779-89 PMID: 22296744

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