Science

Having Trouble Keeping a Healthy Weight?

Here's why chemicals might be keeping you from shedding those last few pounds

If you're eating healthy, getting lots of sleep, but just can't seem to hit a healthy weight, it might be something you've never thought about. Obesogens, a term coined in 2006 to refer to chemicals that cause us to gain and hold on to weight, and can influence weight loss. Now, we know that maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle is influenced by what seems like a bajillion factors, and is a complicated issue with no easy solution. But, it looks like obesogens are a piece of the puzzle and definitely something you want to be aware about. Data shows that obesity is an increasing problem. Over one-third of both adults and children in the U.S. are obese or overweight (1, 5). Even for people who regularly work out or have superhuman strength to say no to desserts, obesogens are having an impact. Unfortunately, as obesogen research is in its early stages, we still don't know everything about these chemicals and how they affect weight gain, but as of now, here's what we do know.


What are obesogens?

Obesogens are chemicals that promote fat development. Examples of obesogen chemicals include DDT, BPA and PFAS. We're exposed to a variety of these chemicals in our everyday lives (1). Now, to be clear, they probably don't cause obesity as directly as eating a cheeseburger night after night. Instead, they act by increasing the chances for excess weight gain, especially if exposed to these chemicals during critical periods of early development, like when the mom is pregnant or in the first few years of life.

What do they do?

Obesogens work in a variety of different ways. They can make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight by increasing the number of fat cells in the body, or increasing the amount of fat stored by fat cells. They can also affect appetite and can worsen the effects of a high-fat or high-sugar diet. Obesogens can also change the way your body stores fat, making it more difficult to burn off excess fat (2, 4). There is evidence now that exposure to obesogens during developmental stages (think growing baby in the mom's belly, or as an infant) can have strong negative health impacts on a child. Research from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences shows that as of right now, there are between 15 and 20 chemicals that are strongly associated with weight gain later in life from exposure either during pregnancy or during infancy (2). According to scientists, this number is most likely the tip of the iceberg and surely we'll know more as research continues! This is why it's super important to try and reduce your child's exposure and your own exposure to obesogens if you're trying to get pregnant or are currently pregnant.

Which ones I should be concerned about?

There are a few obesogens that we know are strongly linked with weight gain, including air pollution, tobacco smoke, and DDT (1). DDT has been banned in the U.S. for quite a while now, but unfortunately, it is a chemical that does not break down easily and therefore exists predominantly in the soil, but can also travel over long distances in the air. The most common way people are exposed to DDT today is through the food they eat. Because DDT is often stored in fat, one of the best ways to avoid it is to choose fish and meat that are low in fat when you can (6).

In terms of limiting your exposure to air pollution and tobacco smoke, always check your neighborhood air quality (the weather app reports it). On bad days, try to stay inside and run an air filter if you have one! Be especially careful not to exercise outside during those days because when your breathing gets heavier, you end up inhaling more air and therefore more air pollution. And, if you're thinking about moving, try to scope out the air quality and traffic of potential neighborhoods before making a decision.

There is also good evidence that flame retardants and some pesticides are obesogens. Luckily, we've got plenty of tips for buying flame retardant free mattresses (and crib mattresses) and couches on the site to help you avoid flame retardants in future furniture purchases. Other things we are worried about include BPA (used in some water bottles) and PFAS (a.k.a. what makes pans non-stick). A big reason we hear about these is because of the fact that they mess up our body's natural processes. Some of those natural processes include responding to sugar and feeling full, which is why a lot of endocrine disruptors are also obesogens (3). In this case, you should try to reduce your use of plastics (here are some good alternatives) and avoid non-stick pans.

Even though it may seem like a damper that many of these chemicals are used in our everyday lives, think of it instead as killing two birds with one stone – by avoiding obesogens, you are also avoiding numerous endocrine disruptors and keeping yourself and your family healthy and safe!

What should I do?

Although it may seem daunting to try to decrease your exposure to chemicals that seemingly are everywhere in the environment, we're here to help you! Here's some more general advice to reduce obesogen exposure:

  1. Wash your hands (and your child's hands) frequently, and definitely before you eat. This will ensure that any chemicals on your hands are washed off before they can make it into your mouth.
  2. Eat fresh organic produce as often as you can. You can also look in the frozen aisle for affordable organic options.
  3. Opt for plastic-free storage containers more often, and definitely don't use plastics in the microwave.Check out why here.
  4. Choose products that are scented with essential oils instead of the ingredient "fragrance" when buying things that smell pretty (i.e. candles or perfume).

From the looks of it, obesogens are another factor to consider when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and healthy weight. It might be a frustrating factor, since a lot of it may seem out of your control, but by following our recommendations above, you can decrease your overall exposure to obesogens. P.S. it doesn't hurt that these recommendations can also help you jump start a healthy lifestyle!

References

  1. https://www.healthandenvironment.org/environmental-health/health-diseases-and-disabilities/obesity-research-and-resources
  2. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/obesity/obesogens/index.cfm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3279464/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26829510
  5. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ChildhoodObesity/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp#.W3MQbuhKjyQ
  6. https://toxicfreefuture.org/science/chemicals-of-concern/pcbs-and-ddt/#aboutddt

Why Creating Your Own Compost Might Be Easier Than You Think

We've got step-by-step instructions, tips and tricks to get you the best looking soil around (seriously!)

You made it! Now that you're here, don't run yet! Gone are the days when composting meant throwing a heap of your leftovers in the dirt and banking on magic to make some soil (not that you still can't). BUT, we've got everything you need to know to jump on the composting train, reduce your carbon footprint and start saving money on fertilizer without all the headache and mess.

Keep Reading Show Less
Want more news like this?
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update!
By submitting above, you agree to our privacy policy.
/ SOCIAL

9 Veggies You Can Grow Indoors

Gourmet dinners with fresh veggies and no more plastic herb packets are in your future

What's better than having an indoor plant baby? How about one that gives you food? Even if you don't have a backyard, you can grow some vegetables and herbs on a windowsill inside. We found 9 veggies and herbs that are easy to grow inside and are useful to have on hand.

Keep Reading Show Less

Why You Should Care About Soil Contamination If You're Starting a Garden in Your Backyard

Here's the dirt-y details you're going to want to know and what to do about it

Dreary winter blues might have you dreaming of blue skies, warm weather and some home grown vegetables. But before you go jetting off to your nearest Home Depot or nursery, you might want to take a second and get to know your soil. We're serious! No, not the hello, my name is ____, more like the hey, what's in my soil? Not all soils are created equally and trust us when we say that you'll definitely want to make sure the soil you're using for growing food to eat is top notch!

Keep Reading Show Less
Home

What All Those Certifications on Mattresses Actually Mean

Label Education: Decoding what GOTS, GOLS, Greenguard, Organic, and more mean

Choosing the right mattress is so important for sound sleep and health, yet with so many options the shopping can be confusing and stressful! Obviously you want to take comfort and pricing into consideration, but there are some chemical ingredients you might want to consider too. Standard synthetic foam mattresses can contain various harmful chemicals we don't want to be sleeping on. And these chemicals can evaporate into the air, or collect in house dust, which is yucky and no good for your family's health.

The great news is that there are a bunch of healthier alternatives, and these labels below can help you find them. We also have a roundup of 12 non-toxic mattress brands if you just want a quick guide to organic mattresses and natural mattresses you can buy.

Keep Reading Show Less
Roundups

12 Non-Toxic Mattresses

options for every budget that are free of any harsh chemicals and petroleum-based foam, including organic mattresses

Step 1: Start researching organic mattresses or natural mattresses. Step 2: Get confused! Step 3: Look at our roundup where we did all the research on safe, well reviewed, comfy mattresses for you. Step 4: Order a healthy, non-toxic, organic mattress Step 5: Sleep more peacefully. We found options for every budget, so what are you waiting for?

All of the mattress brands we found use natural materials like 100% natural latex, organic cotton, and wool, and do not use petroleum-based foams or no chemical flame retardants. For our budget picks ($), a base model queen retailed for less than $1000. For the quality picks ($), a queen ran between $1000 and $2000. And the splurge picks ($) retailed for above $2000. Some brands use inner coils and some are made of just latex layers. We hope this list of natural mattress brands is a good starting place for a better night's sleep.

Keep Reading Show Less

Are your noisy neighbors and traffic noises from outside making you mad? Quite possibly! All the noise you experience throughout the day might be taking a toll on your health. Besides just being supremely annoying, studies show that noise pollution - yep that's really what it's called - is intricately linked to many mental and physical health problems.

Not only does the constant annoyance of irritating noises make people more anxious, but noise makes working more difficult. The noise itself disrupts memory, affects your ability to focus, and decreases performance (1). And if the noise is disrupting your sleep, then that might mean even more bad news!

Keep Reading Show Less

We all have our favorite lipstick. The one that we wear practically every day, is acceptable for work and going out, and that you are always sure to buy extras of, just in case the store runs out. Maybe yours is bright red, a nude pink, or maybe you like to go all out and wear a different shade every week. Regardless of how you get your perfect pout, it might be time to put on your detective hat and take a deeper dive into what makes your lips shine.

Keep Reading Show Less
Want more news like this?
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update!
By submitting above, you agree to our privacy policy.
/ SOCIAL