Chemical pollution in the environment could be causing a global obesity epidemic, according to a recent scientific review.

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These pollutants can upset the body’s metabolic thermostat and cause obesity. These toxic pollutants called obesogens can affect how the body controls weight, according to dozens of scientists behind the huge comprehensive review. They believe that the evidence is strong enough, and this needs to be a topic in mainstream medicine.

The evidence for the obesogens was published in the peer-reviewed journal Biochemical Pharmacology by more than 40 scientists in three review papers and cites 1,400 studies.

According to the WHO, global obesity has tripled since 1975. More people are now obese or overweight than underweight, with 2 billion adults too heavy, and 40 million children under five are obese or overweight.

Obesogens can be found in water and dust, food packaging, personal hygiene products, household cleaners, furniture, and electronics, according to the paper. Scientists believe that these chemicals could be what is causing people to eat more and therefore leading to obesity. “This is critical because the current clinical management of obese patients is woefully inadequate,” they said.

The study names nearly 50 chemicals that they believe have sufficient evidence of having obesogenic effects, which they studied on human and animal cells and epidemiological studies of people. These include PFAS, or “forever chemicals,” pesticides, former flame retardants, and their newer replacements, dioxins and PCBs, and air pollution. Researchers also found that some of these horrifying chemical impacts on the body can be passed down through generations and change how our genes work.

Dr. Jerrold Heindel, the lead author of the study and former employee at the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, says that the focus is still on calories. They tell us if we eat more calories, we’re going to be more fat. “So they wait until you get obese, then they’ll look at giving you diets, drugs, or surgery.”

However, he says that if this were true, we would see a decline in the rate of obesity.

“But we don’t – obesity continues to rise, especially in children. The real question is, why do people eat more? The obesogenic paradigm focuses on that and provides data that indicate that these chemicals are what can do that.”

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Studies have linked exposure to polluted air in early life to obesity. Obesogens mess with the body’s metabolic thermostat which makes gaining weight easier and losing weight harder.

“It turns out chemicals dumped in the environment have these side effects, because they make the cells do things that they wouldn’t otherwise have done, and one of those things is laying down fat,” said Robert Lustig, Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and lead author of another of the reviews.

Authors say that obesogens probably account for 15 to 20 percent of the obesity epidemic, with the rest likely from a processed food diet, which contains some obesogens as well.

This research has the potential to help us to avoid obesity by cutting down on these pollutants. This would not only help the environment, but it would save lives, and it would end up costing so much less than any treatment.

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