Researchers call for expanded regulations on chemicals that fuel obesity

Chemical exposure is fueling obesity problems around the world, and now researchers are calling for governments to expand regulations that target these substances. Called obesogens, the chemicals have hormone-disrupting effects that may play a big role in the development of obesity, as well as making it harder for people to keep the weight off when they lose it.

The researchers presented evidence that obesogen chemicals are a "significant risk to public health" at the 59th Annual European Society of Paediatric Endocrinology Meeting. The researchers describe certain chemicals as disruptors that can "scramble our normal metabolism," making individuals exposed to them more likely to gain weight.

These substances include phthalates, bisphenols, and PFOS; the latter chemical, for example, is found on non-stick cookware and has been found to program the body to store fat even if the conditions are such that you'd normally burn calories, such as when out in cold weather. Bisphenols, meanwhile, can increase the size of fat cells and make the body more likely to store fat.

Then there are phthalates, which are used in things like food packaging and personal care products. Studies have linked this substance to altering protein metabolism, triggering the storage of fat despite one's diet and exercise. These are three common chemicals that people are likely to be exposed to during normal everyday life.

Dr. Leonardo Trasande, one of the researchers behind multiple studies on the topic, explained:

The old 'calories in, calories out' mantra for obesity prevention neglects the crucial role of chemical exposures as a third leg of the stool. In contrast to diet and physical activity interventions, which can hard to be implement, let alone, sustain, levels of obesogens in food packaging and other materials can be modified through regulation.