The search for the rea­sons for waist enlarge­ment is still ongo­ing. While it’s already been decid­ed that the main source of excess weight is the food we eat, some sci­en­tists sus­pect there’s anoth­er fac­tor: sub­stances called “obe­so­gens” — found in our pack­ag­ing, house­hold items and fur­ni­ture — that can affect hor­mones and accu­mu­la­tion of body fat.

Over the years, a person’s body weight tends to increase, and reduc­ing it becomes increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult.

What are obesogens?

Experts are strug­gling to under­stand why peo­ple find it dif­fi­cult to lose weight even if they want to. Socio-eco­nom­ic con­di­tions and the indus­tri­al envi­ron­ment have indeed changed a lot, but does it have such a strong impact on adi­pose tis­sue? There is an assump­tion that chem­i­cals, of which there are more and more, can affect the func­tion­ing of the endocrine sys­tem, and there­fore meta­bol­ic func­tions and the abil­i­ty to store fat cells.

Obe­so­gens are chem­i­cals that can affect the endocrine sys­tem by inter­fer­ing with hor­mon­al reg­u­la­tion.

How both workcogens?

For decades, researchers have not­ed that lab­o­ra­to­ry ani­mals gain weight when exposed to cer­tain chem­i­cals. Ear­ly research sug­gests that there are sev­er­al ways that obe­so­gens affect the body:

  • Increase in fat cells

Some obe­so­gens are like­ly to affect the pro­duc­tion of new fat cells. In some cas­es, the new cells may be unusu­al­ly large. This allows more fat to be stored in the body, lead­ing to weight gain. Research on this issue is incon­clu­sive, and sci­en­tists con­tin­ue to study this process in humans and ani­mals.

  • Block­ing fat burn­ing

Obe­so­gens can dis­rupt the nor­mal way fat cells work so that they can­not release stored fat. If the body can­not access fat to use as ener­gy, fat stores will nev­er decrease. This could hypo­thet­i­cal­ly explain why chang­ing the amount you eat and exer­cise does­n’t affect the amount of fat in your body (but it’s always a good idea to start by review­ing your diet and actu­al phys­i­cal activ­i­ty). Research into this process is ongo­ing to bet­ter under­stand how obe­so­gens lim­it fat loss.

  • Change in appetite

Some obe­so­gens may pos­si­bly affect your hypo­thal­a­mus, the part of your brain that con­trols appetite. The hypo­thal­a­mus pro­duces hor­mones that sig­nal hunger and oth­er hor­mones that tell you when you are full. In ani­mal stud­ies, this process was influ­enced by cer­tain chem­i­cals. The ani­mals showed a ten­den­cy to eat com­pul­sive­ly and not stop even when they were no longer hun­gry. This can hap­pen to peo­ple too.

Types of obesogens

Sci­en­tists have iden­ti­fied quite a few chem­i­cals that can cause obe­si­ty, but the research results are not yet con­clu­sive. Some sub­stances are already banned due to health con­cerns. Oth­ers are com­mon­ly used in man­u­fac­tur­ing, agri­cul­ture and con­sumer prod­ucts.

  1. Organ­otin. These chem­i­cals are fungi­cides. They are used in the pro­cess­ing of wood for build­ing mate­ri­als.
  2. Poly­cyclic aro­mat­ic hydro­car­bons (PAHs). PAHs are by-prod­ucts of the com­bus­tion of cer­tain types of fuel. They lead to air pol­lu­tion. ‌
  3. Bisphe­nol A (BPA). BPA and sim­i­lar chem­i­cals are used in plas­tics. They can be found in food and drink con­tain­ers. ‌
  4. Poly­bromi­nat­ed diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). PBDEs are flame retar­dants. They are used to treat mate­ri­als such as fab­rics or fur­ni­ture to reduce the like­li­hood of them catch­ing fire. ‌
  5. Phtha­lates. Phtha­lates are plas­ti­ciz­ers. They are found in cos­met­ics, med­i­cines and paints. ‌
  6. Parabens. Parabens are preser­v­a­tives found in food, paper prod­ucts and med­i­cines.
  7. Pes­ti­cides. Pes­ti­cides are used in agri­cul­ture.
  8. Alkylphe­nols. It is a type of sur­fac­tant and thick­en­er that is used in many con­sumer prod­ucts such as rub­ber or paint.
Ulti­mate­ly, you won’t gain weight if you don’t con­sume calo­ries.

What to do?

There is no need to throw out all indus­tri­al items from your home. The study of obe­si­ty-caus­ing com­pounds is still in its ear­ly stages. You can study the pack­ag­ing of con­sumer prod­ucts more care­ful­ly and, if pos­si­ble, lim­it the most aggres­sive sub­stances. But it is almost impos­si­ble to com­plete­ly rid your­self of expo­sure to chem­i­cal com­pounds in the mod­ern world. Focus on nutri­tion and phys­i­cal activ­i­ty first until more reli­able data becomes avail­able.


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