It’s no secret that obesity rates have been skyrocketing, with US adults seeing an increase from 14 percent in 1980 to 42 percent today. By 2035, half the world is expected to be overweight or obese, and children and teens are experiencing the sharpest increase in obesity and its consequences. But what if our food’s packaging is playing a role in this alarming trend?
Recent research has uncovered that metabolic disruption caused by eating products packaged in plastic may be contributing to weight gain. A study at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology analyzed 34 common plastic items that come into contact with our food, such as yogurt cups, juice bottles, and plastic wraps. They discovered 55,000 chemicals within these items, with only 629 identifiable. Among these, 11 were known metabolic disruptors like phthalates and bisphenols, which interfere with our bodies’ ability to regulate weight.
What’s more concerning is that when exposed to in vitro human cell cultures, many more chemicals than the identified 11 metabolic disruptors triggered adipogenesis – the process underlying obesity. It’s now understood that these chemicals don’t just stay put in the material but can leach from packaging into our food.
It’s crucial that we start reducing our exposure to plastic without waiting for more slow-moving research to unequivocally prove that the plastics in our food, products, blood, and organs are risk factors for bad health outcomes. Some positive news from the Norwegian study shows that while some plastic products carried chemicals that made fat cells proliferate, other similar products did not.
For example, PET, the transparent plastic mainly used for water bottles, doesn’t contain metabolism-disrupting chemicals and is relatively chemically simple. Some polystyrene styrofoam fruit trays had an obesogenic effect on cell cultures, but others didn’t. This suggests that some plastic producers, whether intentionally or not, are making less harmful forms of plastic.
If industry manufacturers were transparent about the entire suite of chemicals present in their products, consumers could choose plastics with safer formulations, and better overall industry safety standards could be developed. In the meantime, reducing our plastic exposure should be our overall goal.
When considering a healthier lifestyle, it’s not just about cutting out candy and soda. Let’s start by being more conscious of the plastic we use daily and choosing safer alternatives where possible. Encourage others to do the same and Support companies that prioritize transparency and sustainability. Together, we can create a healthier environment for ourselves and future generations.
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- Petition: Tell Trader Joe’s to Ditch Plastic Packaging
- New Lawsuit Targets Toxic PFAS, or Forever Chemicals, in Plastic Food Containers
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