Are the Chemicals Found in Your Everyday Life Making You Fat?
So let’s say you are eating a whole foods, low-glycemic, anti-inflammatory diet while also engaging in healthy exercise and you still are gaining weight and are struggling to lose those extra pounds.
It turns out that toxins in your food and environment could be the culprits wreaking havoc by altering the way your body uses calories and stores fat.
These synthetic chemicals known as “obesogens” are found in your everyday products including plastic bottles and containers, metal food cans, cookware, household cleaning products, personal care products, and cosmetics.
What are Obesogens?
Obesogens are known as endocrine disruptors because they hijack the body’s hormonal signaling systems that control body weight. Studies show that these obesogenic chemicals can influence an individual’s weight and metabolism even if exposure occurred much earlier in life.
Obesogens promote obesity and weight loss resistance in three primary ways:
- Increase the number and size of fat cells in the body
- Increase insulin resistance which promotes fat storage
- Disrupt the hormones that regulate appetite and fullness signaling
The World Health Organization has identified about 800 chemicals that are known or suspected to be endocrine disruptors, yet only a few have actually been investigated. The National Institute of Environmental Sciences has been studying this area for over thirty years and has called endocrine disruption “an important public health concern.” These chemicals are also linked to a variety of serious illnesses including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The Big Four
- Bisphenol-A or BPA – found in plastic, carbonless copy paper, food can linings
- PFOA – used in non-stick cookware, microwave popcorn bags and water repellant and stain resistant fabrics
- Parabens and Phthalates – found in personal care products and cosmetics, air fresheners, vinyl flooring and industrial grade plastic wraps
- Genistein found in soy
Obesogens are also found in things like pesticides and fungicides used in industrial farming, cigarette smoke, charbroiled foods, air pollution, detergents and household cleaning products.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
Although all people are at risk for to chemical exposure, children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. So you need to be especially concerned about young children who crawl on the floor and naturally have their hands and toys in their mouths as they are at a higher risk of ingesting a host of synthetic toxins like flame retardants, stain repellents and other chemicals that persist in household dust.
Nonetheless there are many ways we can avoid obesogens and their hormone disrupting effects.
- Choose Organic Produce to minimize pesticides and fungicides that mimic the hormone estrogen. They can also impair thyroid function and increase fat cell growth leading to weight gain. Also choose anti-oxidant rich foods like blueberries and dark leafy greens to support your body’s immune system.
- Beware of Canned Foods – Opt for box containers or choose brands that have taken the initiative to use BPA-Free can liners like Eden Foods (beans), Vital Choice (salmon, sardines) and Native Forest (coconut milk).
- Minimize Plastics – Particularly for food storage and preparation. Glass and stainless steel are best. Make sure you never microwave in plastic. And if you And if you have to use a plastic water bottle be sure to avoid those with recycling codes #3 or #7. Instead look for the numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6, which are unlikely to contain BPA.
- Go Wild, Grass Fed and Pasture Raised – when it comes to seafood and beef products. Grain and soy fed animals are loaded with obesogens from growth hormones to PCBs. Farm-raised fish are fed a diet of soy and a host of of hormone disrupting chemical compounds.
- Filter Your Water – Install a granular activated carbon filter on your faucet to filter out toxic chemicals such as atrazine.
- Avoid / Minimize Soy especially processed, genetically modified soy products. Genistein is an estrogen-like compound that can increase fat storage and body weight.
- Eliminate / Minimize Non-Stick Pans – If you use non-stick cookware never use a metal implement on it that can scratch the surface and release the chemicals inside. Throw away any scratched non-stick pans. Stainless steel, enamel coated and cast iron are your healthiest options.
- Buy Non-Toxic Household Cleaners and Detergents – Avoid cleaners marked “Danger” or “Poison” or other hazard warnings like “corrosive” or “may cause burns”. Choose products made with plant based instead of petroleum based ingredients. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning for guidance and great recommendations: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners
- Buy Non-Toxic Personal Products and Cosmetics – Your skin is your largest organ and anything that goes on your skin enters your body. Avoid lotions, shampoos, soaps, skin care products that contain the most potent and common hormone disruptors: parabens, phthalates and triclosan that is found in many anti-bacterial products.
- Minimize Exposure to Cash Register Receipts – Store and fast food receipts, airline tickets, ATM receipts and other thermal papers all use massive amounts of BPA on the surface of the paper. Studies show that BPA from thermal papers can be absorbed into your blood rapidly.
- Avoid Synthetic Fragrances – Air fresheners, fabric softeners, personal care products all contain phthalates. Try essential oils, incense burners.
- Beware of Household Dust – Damp mop and wipe down surfaces regularly. A dry rag pushes dust into the air where it will be more easily inhaled.
Finally, in addition to keeping obesogens out of our body it’s equally important to support our body’s natural detoxification system by drinking plenty of clean filtered water and eating daily cleansing foods like cruciferous veggies, fruits, garlic, onions, cilantro, basil, goji berries, ginger, beets, apples and enjoying herbal teas like green tea, milk thistle and dandelion root. While the plethora of hyperprocessed junk foods, modern day stressful living and inactive lifestyles are definitely all major drivers in the obesity epidemic, there is no doubt that these toxic hormone disrupting chemicals impact our weight regulation system and ultimately our long term health. So if you are already doing all the right things for your health take some steps to eliminate obesogens in your life and it might just be the key to your best health.
Spinach Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing
- 4 cups baby spinach
- ½ cup organic blueberries
- ½ cup cooked black lentils (Trader Joe’s has cooked lentils)
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl and dress
- 1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic, minced
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- Salt and pepper to taste