What The Heck Is An Obesogen?
Have you tried everything to lose weight? Have you gone to an expert only to be told you need to eat even less and workout more? These are common issues I see in my practice every day.
The truth is that weight management isn’t just about calories in and calories out. Diet and exercise are hugely important but they aren’t the only factors at play when it comes to your weight. Your hormone system plays a huge role in how you process the calories you take in and your environment has a huge impact on your hormone system.
Which brings us to the topic of obesogens.
Obesogen? What does that even mean?
An obesogen is a chemical that disrupts the body’s hormone system to predispose it to store fat. First coined in 2006, “obesogen” put a name to a growing body of research showing that there are substances in our environment that are making us fat.
This research is helping us look past the overly simplistic calories in-calories out model to appreciate the important role that our environment and endocrine system play in weight management.
How obesogens work in the body
Adipose tissue (AKA fat) is an active tissue that both responds to and releases hormones. Obesogens are a class of hormone disrupter predispose us to weight gain by changing our number of fat cells, the size of the fat cells, and/or the hormones related to appetite, satiety, metabolism, and food preferences.
Obesogens affect people of all ages but it seems that we are most vulnerable during gestation and infancy. Studies have shown long term weight gain in animals exposed to obesogenic chemicals in utero.
What sort of chemicals are we talking about here?
A variety of common chemicals have been identified as potential obesogens. A few of the more recognizable culprits are cigarette smoke, flame retardants, air pollution and some pesticides. Some are harder to identify (and pronounce). For example polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s), chemicals widely used in paints, cements, sealants, and adhesives, have been identified as hormone disrupters. Bisphenol A (or BPA for short) is an obesogen commonly found in all sorts of plastics and can leach into food through packaging (especially if microwaved).
Oh great, another thing to worry about. What should I do?
First and foremost, obesogens don’t make you fat (at least not directly). They alter your adipose tissue to predispose you to weight gain. So even if you have had significant exposure to these chemicals weight management isn’t hopeless, it just may take a little more work.
There’s nothing anyone can do about previous exposure to these chemicals but moving forward we can limit them in our lives and more importantly in the lives of our children. We can also do testing to see if you are especially sensitive to these toxins.
So what should you do? Minimize eating food packaged in plastic. Only microwave food in glass containers. Wash your produce before eating it. Avoid exposure to cigarette smoke and other chemical fumes (which isn’t much of a sacrifice for most of us; sniffing fungicide doesn’t sound like much fun anyways).
The larger takeaway here is that real health is more than just avoiding pain and weight management is a little more complex than just calories in and calories out. The more you know the better you can build a healthy life for you and your family. So get educated and stay healthy!
If you’d like more information check out this report by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science.
To YOUR health!
Movement is Health,
Dr. Christian Barney D.C., D.A.B.C.O., C.C.S.P., ART
How can Performance Health & Wellness help you?
- Active Release Technique (ART) to the soft tissue structures to restore normal function, decrease stress to the injured area, reduce scar tissue, and promote healing;
- Stretching and Exercises to prevent condition from returning;
- Chiropractic adjustments to restore proper motion;
- Cold laser to help reduce inflammation;
- Kinesio taping to allow an athlete to continue to particpate in his sport plus augments the treatment.
- Functional medicine with extensive nutritional based consultation, individualized nutrition programs.