Monday, November 08, 2010

Born to be fat

...Studies on animals have shown that exposure around the time of birth to even trace amounts of everyday chemicals can predispose subjects to weight gain throughout life. Perfluorooctanoic acid, found in non-stick pans, microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, has been associated with obesity in female mice. Bisphenol A, used in plastics and recently declared a toxic chemical in Canada, is linked to obesity in rats. Similarly, triclosan, an ingredient in antibacterial hand soaps, dishwashing detergents and other body care products, has been correlated to faster growth in frogs. Caren Helbing, a researcher at the University of Victoria who worked on the triclosan study, notes, “It’s critical to realize that some of the manufactured chemicals that have been important for protecting people, like flame retardants, were designed without thinking about how they would change the way hormones in humans work.”

The grandfather of the obesogen studies is Bruce Blumberg, a cell biologist at the University of California, Irvine. He coined the term “obesogen,” and has focused on mice and how they are affected by tributyltin (TBT), a pesticide added to paint used on ships to prevent the growth of marine organisms like barnacles and algae, which enters underwater environments and ends up in our seafood. “We found that if we treat pregnant mice with tributyltin, the pups in their womb will be predisposed to getting fat later in life,” Blumberg says. “They make more fat cells, and that appears to lead them to be heavier.”..

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