This article was previously published on February 26, 2020 and has been updated with new information.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are among the most destructive chemicals in our environment. Exposure to them is associated with growth, neurological and learning difficulties, obesity, diabetes, male and female reproductive dysfunction, birth defects, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.1
EDCs are not only harmful – they are also found almost everywhere and are hard to avoid. They lurk in food packaging, inorganic food, non-stick dishes,2 detergents, cosmetics,3 lotions, scented products, antibacterial soaps,4 medicines, toys,5 fabrics, carpets, furniture, building materials treated with flame retardants, pesticides and more.6
When a chemical that disrupts the endocrine system makes permanent and even transgenerative changes in fat cells, it is sometimes called obesogen. Experts believe that obesogens stimulate the growth of fat cells and the accumulation of fat through metabolic changes and changes in appetite that increase the number and size of fat cells.
Examples of obesogens are bisphenol-A and parabens, and other obesogens can be found in flame retardants, pesticides and other chemicals. But the good news is that there are at least five ways you can reduce your exposure to EDCs and obesogens, says Dr. Leonardo Trasande, who wrote about EDCs for Medscape.
Five best tips for avoiding hazardous chemicals
Here are my five tips, adapted from Trasande’s article:
1. Beware of certain dishes – Non-stick pans contain perfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, chemicals that slow down metabolism and cause weight gain.7 Cast iron and stainless steel cookware is a good alternative. Use glass to store food and reusable bags at home and to bring food from the store.
2. Fight against pollution indoors – Flame retardants used in mattresses, carpets, furniture and electronics accumulate in house dust, disrupting thyroid function. Open the windows and reduce them with a wet cloth. Make sure your upholstery has flame retardants added.8
3. Eat organic and avoid canned foods – Organic foods do not contain GMOs and pesticides, which can disrupt the thyroid gland, impair cognition and cause cancer.9 Choose grass-fed, humanely raised meats and dairy products.
Canned foods may contain bisphenols, which are estrogens and make fat cells bigger. They survive in the environment, double the risk of type 2 diabetes, and are likely to be toxic to embryos.10 Do not use pesticides on your lawn and take off your shoes when you enter the house.
4. Do not bake in the microwave and avoid packaged goods – The label “safe in the microwave” is misleading because microscopic polymers break down and enter food.11 Processed and packaged foods contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, pesticides and other obesogens. Phthalates in food packaging and take-away containers can disrupt lipid and carbohydrate metabolism and increase weight.12
5. Avoid vinyl and plastic – Use a washable canvas shower curtain. They stay cleaner and last longer than vinyl. Replace luggage and backpacks with products made from organic linen blends.
Obesity and obesity are related
Obesity has become a global epidemic. Between 1980 and 2010, the obesity rate in the United States doubled, and the obesity rate tripled worldwide.13 Obesity in children is especially flourishing, it almost always condemns them to the life of obese adults.14 Obesity, due to its association with type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, costs the United States about $ 200 billion a year.
The common belief that increased calorie consumption and reduced exercise cause an obesity epidemic does not explain this phenomenon, says research in the journal Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. Instead, people may be predisposed to obesity due to exposure to obesogens in the womb, the researchers write.15
“Adult mice exposed to TBT [tributyltin, an obesogen] in utero showed increased lipid accumulation in fat depots, liver and testes, and treatment of adolescent or adult mice, rats, goldfish and zebras led to increased fat deposition and steatosis of the liver…
TBT is still found in house dust and seafood, and at least one study shows an increased weight index in infants with the highest prenatal exposure to TBT. “
Other chemicals have similar effects, researchers write, such as the fungicides triflumizole and tolylfluanid and the plasticizer diethylhexyl phthalate.16 Obesogens not only increase the level of fat that is immediately seen in experimental animals: the properties of increasing fat can be retained for generations, the researchers write.17
“Prenatal exposure to environmental obesogens can produce lasting effects on exposed animals and their offspring up to at least generation F4. Recent results show that some of these transgenerational effects of obesogen exposure can be passed down through generations through changes in chromatin structure and availability.”
Obviously, obesogens can not only program organisms to accumulate fat; they can program their offspring to do the same.
What causes fat accumulation?
The researchers note in Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology that cells exposed to obesogen did not accumulate more fat than non-exposed cells, but differ in another way: “they did not respond to normal signaling processes.” More precisely, the researchers write, the cells:18
“… expressed decreased levels of GLUT4 followed by lower glucose intake. Produced lower levels of adiponectin mRNA and protein and showed elevated levels of molecular markers of inflammation and fibrosis. … cells were impaired respiratory function, measured in vitro and, as possible expected to contain fewer mitochondria. “
Like research in Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology Research, work in Pediatric Research seems to confirm that obese effects are seen transgenerationally. Exposure of the fetus to phthalates, which are depleted, correlates with the obesity of exposed children, the researchers write.19
“Higher concentrations of MEP, MBzP and ΣDEHP in urine [phthalates] metabolites in pregnant mothers have been associated with an increased likelihood that their children are overweight or obese …
Higher prenatal MEP concentrations were consistently associated with increased BMI, waist circumference, and body fat percentage in children between 5 and 12 years of age … the onset of puberty did not affect our findings. In addition, unlike previous studies, our results were quite similar between boys and girls. “
There are several links between obesity and obesity
Perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which are endocrine disrupting chemicals that are obesogenic, have also been linked to obesity in the scientific literature. The 2018 PLOS Medicine study found:20
“In this diet-induced weight loss study, higher baseline plasma PFAS concentrations were associated with higher weight recovery, especially in women, which may be explained by slower RMR regression. [resting metabolic rate] levels.
These data illustrate a potential new pathway by which PFAS interferes with weight regulation and metabolism. The possible impact of environmental chemicals on the obesity epidemic therefore deserves attention. “
A 2018 study in Environmental Research on pregnant women’s exposure to phthalates also concluded:21
“Exposure to certain phthalates during pregnancy may be associated with long-term changes in body weight in women. More studies are needed on the effects of phthalate exposure during pregnancy on women’s long-term health.”
Chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system associated with diabetes
Diabetes is a major public health problem in the United States and other countries, and chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system contribute to the problem. A study in the journal Environmental Health Perspective finds “positive links between BPA exposure and BPS and the incidence of type 2 diabetes, regardless of traditional risk factors for diabetes.”22
Bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS) are common EDCs. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic and many canned foods, and the metal lids of the jars have BPA in their coatings.23 BPS, an analogue of BPA, was thought to be safer than BPA, but research now reveals that the two have a similar risk profile.24 Researchers at Environmental Health Perspectives wrote:25
“This study is one of the few prospective studies on the association between BPA exposure and the subsequent development of type 2 diabetes and the first on diabetes that relies on repeated measurements of bisphenol in urine to assess exposure, crucial given the short half-life of BPA in body.
As far as we know, this is also the first study to investigate exposure to BPS in relation to the risk of developing diabetes. Our results suggest an association between the risk of diabetes and the concentration of BPA and BPS detection in urine. “
A study on rats published in Environmental Health Perspectives 2017 clearly duplicates the findings of EDC and diabetes.26
“Overall summary estimates suggest a significant positive association between BPA and fat mass … The findings of our systematic review suggest that early life BPA exposure may increase obesity and circulating lipid levels in rodents …
It is important to note that although this review focused on BPA, other chemicals with alleged obese effects have been identified.
For example, analogous BPA bisphenol S and several other chemical classes have been identified as potentially obesogenic chemicals; these include phthalates, organotin, perfluorinated alkyl acids, brominated flame retardants, (non) -dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls and several pesticides. “
The Endocrinological Society also questions the safety of EDC
The Endocrine Society, the world’s largest organization of endocrine clinicians and scientists, has also researched the risks of chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system. The company says:27
“… Defines a chemical that interferes with the endocrine system (EDC) as an ‘exogenous chemical, or mixture of chemicals, that can interfere with any aspect of the action of hormones’ …
EDCs are found in many different products, including plasticizers, personal care products and pesticides. Furthermore, EDCs such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins are found in environmental pollutants.
People are exposed to EDC on a daily basis by ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact, and this constant exposure has detrimental effects on reproductive health.
In particular, EDCs are known to reduce fertility in both male and female animal models and are associated with infertility / infertility in humans.
These chemicals can affect steroid production (steroidogenesis), ovarian follicle development and growth (folliculogenesis), and sperm development and maturation (spermatogenesis), leading to reproductive complications. “
Toxic chemicals are everywhere
Toxic chemicals are everywhere; in your food, water, air and countless frequently used products and goods, and this attack has a definite effect – even when the exposure is relatively low. Yes, plastic has made modern life “more convenient,” but the damage it does is not worth it. The dangers are especially pronounced during pregnancy and early infancy.
The idea that chemicals affect your health should come as no surprise. What can be surprising is the extent of your exposure. Most of us spend our day touching, eating, drinking and breathing with little concern about what we are actually coming into contact with.
As you saw above in various scientific studies, the obese effects of EDC are particularly clear, causing obesity and other metabolic problems. Obesity, in turn, is associated with other diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.28 But damage from EDC and obesity can be reduced by common-sense lifestyle choices.