Quantcast
Health

Toxic Chemicals May Increase Chances of Regaining Weight After Dieting

By Alexis Temkin

Exposure to fluorinated industrial chemicals, known as PFAS or PFC chemicals, may increase the amount of weight that people, especially women, regain after dieting, according to a new study by Harvard University researchers, published in PLOS Medicine. It found that women with higher levels of PFAS chemicals in their blood at the start of the study regained an average of 3.7 to 4.8 pounds more than women with lower levels of the chemicals in their blood.


People can be exposed to PFAS chemicals from many sources, including water, food and consumer products. In the home, PFAS chemicals can be found in stain-proofing treatments for carpets, in food packaging materials and even in cosmetics and personal care products. The Harvard study joins a significant body of research linking PFAS chemicals to cancer, thyroid disease, endocrine disruption and other health problems. One of the study co-authors, Philippe Grandjean, a professor at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has published studies showing that very low levels of PFAS chemicals can reduce the effectiveness of childhood vaccines.

The researchers measured PFAS levels in the blood of 621 study participants, who were put on weight loss diets for the study. In addition to greater weight gain after diet-induced weight loss, higher PFAS levels were associated with lowered metabolism, a possible explanation for the weight gain.

The senior author of the study was Qi Sun, a professor at the Harvard Chan School. In a press release, he said PFASs and other chemicals have been linked with weight gain and obesity in laboratory animals, but until now there has been little data on their effect on people.

"Now, for the first time, our findings have revealed a novel pathway through which PFASs might interfere with human body weight regulation and thus contribute to the obesity epidemic," Qi said.

Years of research have shown that dieters who lose weight often regain some or all of it in a year or two. The new study, along with a growing body of scientific evidence, suggests exposure to chemical pollutants may play a role in how we manage our weight and that we may be more likely to develop diseases like obesity and diabetes based on our chemical exposures. These chemicals are called obesogens.

A new book by Bruce Blumberg, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California at Irvine, explains how obesogens may be offsetting our efforts to control our weight.

The Obesogen Effect: Why We Eat Less and Exercise More But Still Struggle to Lose Weight describes the science of obesogens and how they fit into the bigger picture of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Endocrine disruptors are a class of chemicals that can alter hormone function, leading to reproductive harms like infertility and neurodevelopment problems like lowered IQ. Scientific evidence indicates that several endocrine-disrupting chemicals Americans are exposed to daily include obesogens like PFASs, phthalates, flame retardants, bisphenol A and artificial sweeteners.

As with endocrine-disrupting chemicals, children and developing fetuses can be more vulnerable than adults to the harms associated with obesogens. As EWG reported in November, researchers are finding that exposures in the womb to BPA and air pollution are associated with increased fat and body mass index when children reach school age and adolescence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one-fifth of American children are obese.

"The existence of obesogens and the potential heritability of the effects they cause means that women of childbearing age, women who are pregnant, plan to become pregnant or who have young children would benefit greatly by reducing their exposure—and their children's exposure—to obesogens and [endocrine-disrupting chemicals] in general," Blumberg told EWG.

Wondering how to do that? In the book, Blumberg discusses steps to follow if you want to reduce your exposure to obesogens and other endocrine disruptors. One way is to follow the tips in EWG's Healthy Living: Home Guide. But the best place to start is food.

Blumberg recommends "providing whole, fresh, unprocessed food that is free of dietary and chemical obesogens. To the extent possible, these foods should be organic."

If some organic foods are unavailable or unaffordable, turn to EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. It'll tell you which fruits and vegetables are most important to buy organic. An updated version of the guide will be released next month.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Adventure
Háifoss waterfall is situated near the volcano Hekla in the south of Iceland. FEBRUARY / Getty Images

The Essential Guide to Eco-Friendly Travel

By Meredith Rosenberg

Between gas-guzzling flights, high-pollution cruise ships and energy-consuming hotels, travel takes a huge toll on the environment. Whether for business or vacation, for many people it's not realistic to simply stop traveling. So what's the solution? There are actually numerous ways to become more eco-conscious while traveling, which can be implemented with these expert tips.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Westend61 / Getty Images

EcoWatch Gratitude Photo Contest: Submit Now!

EcoWatch is pleased to announce its first photo contest! Show us what in nature you are most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Whether you have a love for oceans, animals, or parks, we want to see your best photos that capture what you love about this planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Freder / E+ / Getty Images

Surprising Study: Orangutans Are Only Non-Human Primates Who Can 'Talk' About the Past

We already know that orangutans are some of the smartest land animals on Earth. Now, researchers have found evidence that these amazing apes can communicate about past events—the first time this trait has been observed in a non-human primate.

A new study published in the journal Science Advances revealed that when wild Sumatran orangutan mothers spotted a predator, they suppressed their alarm calls to others until the threat was no longer there.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Suicide rates are highest for males in construction and extraction; females in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media, the CDC found. Michelllaurence / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

CDC: Suicide Rate Among U.S. Workers Increasing

From 2000 to 2016, the suicide rate among American workers has increased 34 percent, up 12.9 per 100,000 working persons to 17.3, according to a worrisome new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Workers with the highest suicide rates have construction, mining and drilling jobs, the U.S. health officials reported Thursday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
PG&E received a maximum sentence for the 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion. Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Report: 90% of Pipeline Blasts Draw No Financial Penalties

A striking report has revealed that 90 percent of the 137 interstate pipeline fires or explosions since 2010 have drawn no financial penalties for the companies responsible.

The article from E&E News reporter Mike Soraghan underscores the federal Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) weak authority over the fossil fuel industry for these disasters.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Nevada Test and Training Range. U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum

U.S. Navy Proposes Massive Land Grab to Test Bombs

Friday the U.S. Navy released details of a plan to seize more than 600,000 acres of public land in central Nevada to expand a bombing range. The land under threat includes rich habitat for mule deer, important desert springs and nesting sites for raptors like golden eagles.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A deer stands in the remains of a home destroyed by the Camp Fire. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

63 Dead, 631 Missing in Deadliest, Most Destructive Fire in California History

The death toll from the catastrophic Camp Fire—by far the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history—has now risen to 63, with 631 people still unaccounted for, the Huffington Post reported Friday.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office announced on Thursday that the death toll had risen from Wednesday's figure of 56 after the remains of seven more people were discovered in the wreckage.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
A smoky haze obstructs the view of the San Francisco skyline on Aug. 24 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Smoke Is a Big Health Risk as California Wildfires Rage On

By Nneka Leiba

Deadly wildfires continue to blaze in Northern and Southern California. Dozens of people are dead, hundreds more missing and entire communities have been destroyed.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!