Are Environmental Toxins Causing Your Weight Gain?

By Steven V. Joyal, MD, VP of Medical & Scientific Affairs at Life Extension.

The simplistic “eat less, move around more” solution for weight loss cannot explain the sharp increase in the rise of obesity over the past 30 years. The disturbing fact is that toxins in our environment are hidden causes of weight gain.

Our children represent the future. Yet their future may be irrevocably mortgaged by toxic chemicals that seep into our food supply, lying in wait to trigger damaging effects. The startling truth is that infant obesity rates have skyrocketed 73% over the past 30 years (since 1980), and an important, yet under-recognized culprit, is the presence of special types of environmental toxins in our food supply.

Certain hormone-mimicking chemical toxins in our foods act on genes during development that literally create more fat cells. These toxic endocrine disruptor chemicals change our metabolism to hoard calories as body fat. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic the effects of certain types of hormones in your body to promote weight gain.

Scientists know that bisphenol A, a chemical found in polycarbonate hard plastic, the lining of food cans, and cleaning detergents has surprising effects on precursor cells called fibroblasts, a type of cell the body uses to form connective tissue. Scientists have shown that bisphenol A and other industrial compounds can turn fibroblasts into fat cells.

Phthalates, used in plastics, solvents, cosmetics, and perfumes are another class of endocrine disruptors that act like hormones in your body to promote weight gain. Phthalates like dibutylphthalate (DBP), butylbenzylphthalate (BBP) and diethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) are found in solvents, agents that help dissolve away dirt and grime.

Just as exposure to toxins can trigger cancer, exposure to toxic chemicals can trigger an increase in fat cells. Your short list of important obesity-promoting toxins to avoid, and how to avoid them are:

  • Bisphenol A: Buy preserved foods in glass instead of cans, especially acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits, avoid soft drinks and bottled water in single-use plastic containers, and never microwave food or put hot foods in plastic containers.
  • Phthalates: Start reading labels on household cleaning products and reject all that include the word “nonylphenol” on the ingredient list.

Since some of these toxins inevitably enter our bodies, detoxification is important. Herbs like milk thistle seed (silymarin) and compounds like N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and lipoic acid are among the nutrients known to be particularly supportive of liver detoxification.


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