“Obesity-genic” Chemicals

 Obesity has become a universal epidemic which continues to grow. Obese people are at risk for numerous comorbidities, such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, stroke, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, gout and osteoarthritis.

It has been traditionally thought that obesity results from a high caloric intake in comparison with energy expenditure. However, new research provides evidence that human exposure to certain chemical substances, called “obesogens”, could favor the growth and proliferation of fat cells, and increase body fat.

In addition, certain environmental pollutants could also provoke alterations in cholesterol and triglyceride levels, thereby contributing to the development of cardiovascular disease, which the World Health Organization considers the main cause of death worldwide.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Common POPs include DDE, the main metabolite of pesticide DDT, which was widely used all over the world in the 1980s, and is currently employed by some countries to combat malaria. Also included is the insecticide lindane, frequently used in the past in agriculture and also in certain medicines, such as those used for treating lice and scabies.


Other POPs include a group of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), used as an insulating material in electronic equipment, such as transformers and capacitors, as well as in heat transfer fluids and in lubricants. PCBs have also been used in a wide range of products such as plasticizers, surface coatings, inks, adhesives, flame-retardants, paints, and carbonless duplicating paper.



These substances are ubiquitous and can remain in the environment for years, even decades, without degrading. In spite of the fact that their use is currently very restricted, POPs continue to be a serious public health problem.


A team of Spanish scientists from the University of Granada found that 100% of participants in a survey they conducted presented with detectable levels of one or more POP compounds.


The universal exposure of POPs, and the impact of these chemical on our health, is an important issue that needs to be considered given the obesity epidemic and incidence of associated chronic diseases, which are on the rise and a growing economic burden.


A number of studies have demonstrated that the general population is exposed to POPs mainly through food with a high fat content (i.e. fish and fatty meat).


Scientists confirmed that the accumulated levels of POPs in individuals were related to obesity and to serum levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. This was irrespective of the gender, age, place of residence or smoking habits of participants in the survey.




Glyphosate, commonly known as “Roundup,” is the world’s most widely used herbicide. It is sprayed on numerous crops and plantations to kill weeds (including 80% of genetically engineered crops like soy, canola, corn, cotton, and sugar beets) and can enter our diets through the produce or the animals we eat (since aapproximately 80% of the corn and 22% of the wheat produced in the US every year is used for animal feed).

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that a high percentage of individuals tested had certain pesticides or the chemical breakdown of those pesticides (metabolites) in their blood and/or urine.

High levels of glyphosate are permitted as residues in food and animal feed and cannot be completely removed by washing, peeling or processing.

Because it is widely used in home gardens and public places including roadsides and parks, ongoing exposure is widespread and constantly recurring.

Glyphosate disrupts the endocrine system and the balance of gut bacteria in our bodies. It can damage DNA and become a driver of mutations that lead to cancer.

Glyphosate has also been correlated with a number of chronic diseases, including obesity, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, senile dementia, autism, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal infections, hepatitis C, end stage renal disease, kidney failure, thyroid cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer and kidney cancer.

Should you live in a bubble?

Given the pervasive and universal exposure we all have to the aforementioned chemicals, through our food, self-care products, manufactured goods and environment, it almost seems like one would need to live in a bubble in order to avoid being poisoned.


Fortunately there are a number of more practical things you can do to lower your exposure, prevent disease and enhance your health. Some useful tips include:

  • Choose organic meat and produce when possible, especially avoiding the ¨Dirty Dozen¨

  • Buy safe self-care products that are non-toxic

  • Switch to eco-friendly cleaning products


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About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin