Disrupting the Pattern

Strong Evidence Links Chemical Exposure to Obesity

You can be forgiven for believing that the global epidemic of obesity is simply a “preventable” problem caused by unhealthy behaviors of “dietary patterns and physical activity.” The World Health Organization, CDC, and innumerable other authorities have repeated this supposition enough so that it has assumed the status of a fact. Thus, the notion that chemical exposure may play an important role is unsettling.

In a new scientific statement of top experts, the Endocrine Society asserts that new research completed over the past five years provides strong evidence of a role for endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in obesity and diabetes, as well as five other significant health problems. Examples of these EDCs include bisphenol A and phthalates (found in plastics), pesticides, persistent organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated diethyl ethers, and dioxins.

These EDCs act by mimicking, blocking, or otherwise interfering with natural hormones that regulate growth, hunger, weight regulation, and metabolism. They are so common that nearly every person on earth has been exposed to one or more of them.

Let’s be clear, the point is not that EDC exposure is a primary cause of obesity. The point is that we now have strong evidence for a serious risk.

Andrea Gore, chair of the task force that developed this new statement, explains what must be done about this risk:

It is clear we need to take action to minimize further exposure. With more chemicals being introduced into the marketplace all the time, better safety testing is needed to identify new EDCs and ensure they are kept out of household goods.

The Endocrine Society is also calling for further research to provide a deeper understanding of cause-and-effect relationships between EDC exposure and health conditions.

Click here to read the scientific statement and here to read more from Science magazine.

Disrupting the Pattern, photograph © Matthias Weinberger / flickr

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September 29, 2015