All over the news, there are constant reminders of the fight against obesity. The studies are endless of how we need to exercise, eat healthier, less meat and more grains and drink or smoke less. Some doctors tell us that the current obesity crisis is an epidemic. The money is spent to develop a diet pill, new surgery techniques are being developed to help people lose weight. Shows such as “The Biggest Loser” try to inspire people that weight loss is possible. What if you try everything but you struggle to lose weight. You can blame your thyroid but its not the reason. There is another cause for obesity that is affecting us every day.
There is growing evidence linking hormone disrupting chemicals to obesity and diabetes. These chemicals which include bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, are everywhere in your supermarket. This makes it difficult to limit how much people eat, drink or take in through the skin. Food safety is important when harvesting vegetables or processing meats but it doesn’t stop there. It is more important than ever to perform safety testing on any new chemicals that are being used for food packaging.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
Your endocrine system is a collection of glands in your body that produce hormones to regulate body functions. Some of the major glands include the pituitary gland (regulate growth and blood pressure), thyroid gland (regulates growth and controls weight), pancreas (regulates insulin and digestion), ovaries/testes (sexual reproduction) and adrenal glands (regulates adrenaline, metabolism and immune system). So as you can see, any disruption to this system will contribute to health problems by mimicking, blocking or interfering with the naturally produced hormones. By interfering with the natural body’s chemical, endocrine-disrupting chemicals can alter the way cells develop, grow and regulate body functions including obesity. It is more necessary than ever to minimize exposure and identify new endocrine disrupting chemicals.
As the race continues to produce cheaper packaging to keep costs down, the chemicals used are not fully understood how they react to the food packaged in it or even temperatures from sitting in a transport truck. Some examples include dioxins which was used in the herbicide Agent Orange. This was used during the Vietnam war in an attempt to reduce the forests by which the enemy was hiding in. After some of our troops were exposed to this chemical, The results were not understood until years later which include various higher cancer mortality, sexual reproduction defects, birth defects and lung/ skin diseases. To add insult to injury, the soil that was sprayed with agent orange is still so contaminated that it can’t be used to grow food for human consumption.
Another chemical is BPA which is used to make plastic and epoxy resins. The plastic containing BPA is clear and tough, and is used to make water bottles, inside of food cans, sports equipment and DVDs. Epoxy resins containing BPA are used to line water pipes, interior coatings of many food and beverage cans and in making thermal paper used in sales receipts. If you have an infant, you will see baby bottles with the BPA Free signs on it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stopped the use of BPA in baby bottled and sippy cups in 2012. BPA is especially harmful to unborn fetuses, but as for us adults, BPA is in our bodies to some degree as is the chances for obesity.
The reason why BPA is dangerous in the human body, is because it mimic the effects of natural estrogen (estradiol). Estradiol is a steroid and a main hormone for the female reproductive system. It mainly regulates the menstrual cycle. Some of the side effects of an altered menstrual cycle include weight gain (obesity) and mood fluctuation. The hard part will be limiting exposure of BPA since diet is the major form of contamination. Bisphenol A is leached (released) from the lining of food and beverage cans where it is used as an ingredient in the plastic used to protect the food from direct contact with the can. If you think cleaning the bottles and cans help, you are actually wrong since cleaning with harsh detergents or high-temperature liquids will release them faster. You can also get contamination from drinking water since BPA is used to coat water pipes especially in older buildings since the resin coatings are used to avoid replacement of deteriorating pipes.
Phthalates also known as plasticizers are a group of man made chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. Phthalates are used in cosmetics and personal care products, including perfume, hair spray, soap, shampoo, nail polish, and skin moisturizers. We are basically using them everyday. Also add consumer products such as flexible plastic and vinyl toys, shower curtains, wallpaper, vinyl miniblinds, food packaging, and plastic wrap. Fatty foods such as milk (remember that plastic bottle), butter, and meats (plastic wrap surrounding it) are a major source In studies of rodents exposed to certain phthalates, high doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects. So you are exposed when you eat food packaged in plastic, breathe dust in rooms with vinyl miniblinds, wallpaper, or recently installed flooring.
Exposure to all these types of endocrine disrupting chemical is connected to infertility, hormone-related cancers, neurological issues and other disorders. Animal studies found that exposure to even tiny amounts of endocrine disrupting chemicals during the prenatal period can trigger obesity later in life. Other studies found that some endocrine disrupting chemicals directly target the pancreas, fat cells, and liver cells. This can lead to insulin resistance (cause of obesity and Type II diabetes) and an overabundance of the hormone insulin in the body. The question now is how to reduce exposure. One of the problems is the need for a low cost food or consumer good. Materials are used to keep packaging at a low cost, food and goods last longer. The side effect is we are slowly poisoning ourselves.
What do you think we should do to avoid these chemicals and fight obesity?