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Chemicals Linked to Increased Risk of Childhood Obesity

PHOTO: A growing body of science links childhood obesity with certain chemicals that are found in products from food-can linings to nonstick cookware. The chemicals can change the cellular pathways, contributing to fat accumulation. CREDIT: Tony Alter
PHOTO: A growing body of science links childhood obesity with certain chemicals that are found in products from food-can linings to nonstick cookware. The chemicals can change the cellular pathways, contributing to fat accumulation. CREDIT: Tony Alter
July 29, 2013

BOSTON - It's common knowledge that eating healthy food and exercising can help people maintain a healthy weight, but there's another factor at play of which many people are unaware: chemicals in the products we buy and use, which can contribute to fat accumulation.

According to Kathleen Schuler, senior policy analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, an emerging body of science links an increased risk of obesity to chemicals that disrupt hormones, especially during prenatal life and in childhood.

"One of the effects can be changing the cellular pathways to accumulate fat, and so we're finding that many of the chemicals that we are exposed to every day are what we call 'obesogens' or chemicals that contribute to fat accumulation," Schuler said.

Schuler said such chemical obesogens can be found in everything from electronics to nonstick cookware and many other products.

"Bisphenol-A, which people know, it's in food can linings" is among them, she stated. "It's in certain kinds of plastics. Phthalates are also hormone-disrupting chemicals that are known to be obesogens, and phthalates are used in plastics. They're also used in fragrance products, so many personal-care products have phthalates in them."

To reduce the risk of exposure, Schuler said, consumers can stop purchasing and using those products that contain the chemicals.

"But we really need to go upstream and we need to get these chemicals out of some of the products that people use every day," she went on. "And one thing we can do is we can reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, which is a federal act that regulates industrial chemicals."

It's now estimated that one-third of American children and two-thirds of adults in this country are overweight or obese.

More information at bit.ly/13LVqaY.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA