What if you ate healthily for months on end and your excess fat refused to leave? If your diet is clean but fat loss is still not happening, it’s possible you’re being regularly exposed to obesogens.
Many professionals in the medical and exercise fields who don’t specialize in weight loss won’t believe you if you tell them you eat healthily in reasonable portions, stay active, avoid junk food and still don’t lose weight. They’re attached to the “calories in, calories out” approach to weight loss.
Since my practice specializes in medical weight loss, I know that in some cases there are other reasons for the inability to lose weight. This is becoming more widely recognized as national trends related to obesity are studied. Even individuals at the lower end of the BMI (Body Mass Index) curve are trending heavier, which suggests that there are environmental factors involved in our society’s widespread weight gain.
What Is An Obesogen?
Obesogens are chemicals that can cause individuals to gain weight – even when they’re eating right, and doing everything else that should lead to weight loss. Different obesogens have different effects. Some encourage weight gain, some pack on fat specifically or make fat cells bigger. Some trigger appetite or have other effects on your metabolism.
Obesogens are hormone disruptors. They’re not the only things that can cause hormone issues resulting in fat retention. Thyroid issues, medications, even dietary components such as soy and MSG can effect hormones and block fat loss, but chemical obesogens are probably the least known by the average dieter.
Evidence suggests obesogens are also linked with diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Where Do Obesogens Come From?
In a typical day our body is exposed to a huge number of chemicals, many of which it has to clear out of our systems for good health. From pesticides and fertilizers sprayed on our food to additives in it, to air pollution, dangerous chemicals in cleaning products, personal products such as deodorant, shampoo and cosmetics, we each face multiple exposures daily.
Two of the most common chemical obesogens are BPA and PFOA. These obesogens are found in the packaging of some processed foods – particularly cans, in some cookware, and in personal care products.
If I’ve Been Exposed, Is It “Curable”?
You’ve been exposed – we all have to some extent. However, some people seem to be more genetically at risk for adverse effects from obesogens and may be more impacted by even low-level exposure.
Some research indicates that prenatal exposure to certain obesogens such as PFOA can make us tend towards obesity for life. However, these inherited obesogenic effects don’t mean we have to become or stay obese. The researcher who coined the term “obesogen” in 2006, Bruce Blumberg, a biology professor at the University of California, Irvine, states:
“I would not want to say that obesogen exposure takes away free will or dooms you to be fat,” he says. “However, it will change your metabolic set points for gaining weight. If you have more fat cells and propensity to make more fat cells, and if you eat the typical high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet we eat [in the United States], you probably will get fat.”
In my next article, I’ll talk more about the scientific studies related to obesogens, and what you can do today to limit your exposure, and that of your family.