Monday, May 10, 2010

Obesity's Elephant: Environmental Chemicals

Today, obesity is the fastest rising health concern in the U.S. Obesity is a problem that people have tried to use both diet and exercise to combat, yet a growing body of research is suggesting there is another component of this problem, our exposure to environmental chemicals.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are a public health concern because they mimic natural hormones and interfere with our endocrine system. Research shows a potential link between children being exposed to EDCs during development and the increased burden of chronic health problems, such as obesity.

One EDC you may have heard about recently is Bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA has been used for years in the production of reusable water bottles and baby bottles, but now many companies are now offering BPA-free products.

The reason BPA is becoming a public health concern is that research has demonstrated a link between children's exposure to BPA during critical developmental windows - such as in the womb or as infants - and obesity. For example, Nikaido et al. exposed pregnant rats to BPA to determine the effects on fetal development [1]. The results showed that prenatal exposure to BPA at human-relevant doses accelerated weight gain of the female offspring compared to offspring of the mothers not exposed to BPA.

This study is one of many that demonstrate chemical exposures could be a factor, changing our bodies in ways that make us obese.

1. Nikaido, Y. et al. Reprod. Toxicol. 2004; 18: 803-811.

This is Part 5 in the Chemical Exposures and Public Health series.
Part 1 - From Interest to Passion
Part 2 - An Environmental Health Risk
Part 3 - Lead: A Regulatory Success Story
Part 4 - Something My Body Needs Anyway?
Part 5 - Obesity's Elephant: Environmental Chemicals
Part 6 - Why Our Approach to Toxicology Must Change
Part 7 - Failures of U.S. Chemical Regulation
Part 8 - Cleaning Up Our Act
Part 9 - Environmental Health Research Saves Lives and Money
Part 10 - Call to Action

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