In 2008, roughly 33% of adult Americans were obese. We count calories and exercise regularly but somehow tip the scales on the heavy side. New research is showing that looking at calories alone is not enough. Researchers are starting to look at “obesogens” and the effect they have on weight gain and health.
Obesogens are industrial chemicals prevalent in our food supply that affect the way our body stores fat and regulates metabolism. One class of obesogens, organotins, are widely used in the manufacture of polyvinylchloride plastics, as fungicides and pesticides on crops, as slimicides in industrial water systems, as wood preservatives, and as marine antifouling agents. Studies are showing that organotins change the way your body responds to calories. For example, the organotins tributyltin and triphenyltin cause animals to have more numerous and larger fat cells.
There are countless studies that show that caloric intake vs caloric expense are the most important factors to consider in weight gain, but other studies are showing that the quality of calories being ingested have important effects too. One study at Princeton University showed that rats drinking high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) gained more weight than rats drinking sugar water, even though the caloric intake was exactly the same. Rats consuming HFCS exhibited signs of abnormal weight gain, increased fat deposits around the visceral areas and increased triglyceride levels compared to rats drinking sugar water. Most people thingk that fructose comes from fruits, but the fructose that we see on the labels of food products is actually synthesized crystalling fructose, which has nothing to do with the fructose we might find in an apple or orange.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is another suspected obesogen. A few years ago it was found in most water bottles and other food containers. PCB’s and nicotine are also suspected in changing metabolism and caloric function.
For more information, have a look at this article from the Atlantic.