New European research suggests that exposure to certain everyday chemicals may be contributing to obesity by interfering with our hormones.
Carried out by Dr. Ana Catarina Sousa and a team of researchers from the Universities of Aveiro and Beira Interior in Portugal, the research studied the most important sources of exposure to these chemicals, known as “obesogens,” and how exposure could be reduced.
Limiting our contact with products which carry obesogens might reduce the risk of obesity, as these chemicals interfere with how our bodies store and process fat.
Previous studies have found the chemicals in many day-to-day products like pesticides, plastics, flame retardants, repellent coatings on kitchen utensils and clothes, and artificial sweeteners.
After reviewing animal studies and epidemiological surveys, which look at the factors affecting the health and illness of populations, the team found that the main sources of exposure to obesogens indoors are diet, house dust, and everyday products such as cleaning chemicals, kitchenware or cosmetics.
For example, obesogens such as tributyltin (a paint chemical banned a decade ago, and cadmium), a metal associated with certain cancers, can worryingly still be found in food products, in some cases at high concentrations.
“Obesogens can be found almost everywhere, and our diet is a main source of exposure, as some pesticides and artificial sweeteners are obesogens. Equally, they are present in plastics and home products, so completely reducing exposure is extremely difficult – but to significantly reduce it is not only feasible, but also very simple,” said Dr. Sousa.
The researchers suggested the following ways to help reduce obesogen exposure:
- Choose fresh food over processed products.
- If you do buy processed products remember that the longer the list of ingredients, the more likely the product is to contain obesogens.
- Buy fruit and vegetables produced without pesticides, such as certified organic products.
- Reduce the use of plastic, especially when heating or storing food and drinks. Instead, use glass or aluminium containers.
- Remove shoes when entering the house to avoid bringing in contaminants in the soles.
- Vacuum often, and dust your house frequently using a damp cloth.
- Remove or minimise carpets at home, as they tend to accumulate dust.
- Avoid cleaning products when possible, or choose ones without obesogens.
“These are baby steps to achieve an obesogen-free lifestyle but a really good start,” added Dr. Sousa. “Essentially, watch your diet and get rid of the dust at home. Adults ingest about 50mg of dust every day, and children twice as much, so keeping the house clean is a very effective measure.”
The findings were presented at the European Society of Endocrinology’s annual meeting, taking place May 19 to 22 in Barcelona, Spain. JB