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Daily News Blog

01
Mar

Literature Review on Obesogens Highlights the Long-Term Metabolic Impacts of Pesticide Exposure

Research demonstrates the complexity of the threats associated with environmental obesogens and the severe limitations of pesticide regulation.

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2024) A comprehensive research review published in Environment & Health analyzes existing research demonstrating the link between an increase in obesity and the proliferation of synthetic chemicals that “interfere with lipid metabolism.” The study documents over 50 obesogens with high-level human exposure rates, including per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), phthalates (PAEs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), that can lead to lipid metabolism disruption including health impacts on the liver and insulin resistance, among other metabolic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and dyslipidemia. Authors in this study highlight the scientific research community’s focus on adipose tissue and the liver, and a need to further explore effects on cardiovascular and kidney health. This anthology of research demonstrates the complexity of the threats associated with toxic pesticides, the severe limitations of their regulatory review, and the failure to consider organic practice and product alternatives that eliminate their use.

Environmental obesogens are chemicals that are proven to have a health impact on metabolic systems relating to obesity. This review evaluates literature, going back to the 2006 obesogen hypothesis, on the metabolic impacts of environmental obesogens, including epidemiologic data, in vitro studies, and bioassays. Researchers scanned Web of Science, PubMed, Google Scholar, and Scopus for research studies with search terms including “environmental obesogens,” “lipid metabolism,” “influencing factors,” and “research approaches.”

The study dissects numerous influencing factors on long-term adverse health effects from obesogen exposure, including transgenerational effects, windows of susceptibility, gender differences, structure-effect relationships, and dietary habits. Researchers find that exposure to obesogens can “alter the epigenetic programming of germ cells (sperm or egg),” meaning that health impacts from these chemicals can be transferred forward through “multiple generations,” vulnerabilities associated with “windows of susceptibility.” In a multitude of animal studies, exposure to toxic chemicals, substances, and pesticides (e.g. chlorpyrifos, PAEs, dioxins, organotins, flame retardants, BPA and analogues, alkylphenols, PFASs, food additives, and heavy metals) in earlier stages of life can lead to health issues when their parent is exposed to chemicals. For example, bis(2-exthylexyl) phthalate (DEHP) “was found to cause long-term disturbance in the glucose homeostasis of [‘Wistar rats’] offspring,” leading to an increase in visceral fat and overall body weight. The review also finds distinctions in lipid metabolic impacts between men and women: “Women typically exhibit a body fat percentage that is approximately 10% higher than that of men.” Gender differences in obesogenic effects are important to track, given the distinction in regulatory pathways impacted by endocrine disruptors in lipid metabolism for men and women.

The molecular structure of the obesogens, be they isomers, stereoisomers, or analogues, can “produce significant variations in their [health] effects, requiring further experimental verification,” however, much more research is needed to be done to increase understanding. Dietary habits, particularly high-fat diets of processed food products, represent the most significant source of exposure to obesogens. “The gut microbiota plays a vital role in the development of obesity,” the authors report. “The composition of the gut microbiota is highly dynamic and can be rapidly and substantially altered by diet and other environmental factors.” Beyond Pesticides tracks scientific studies that corroborate this finding, underscoring the health implications of switching to organic food, including the reduction of glyphosate residues and urinary organophosphate pesticide metabolites.

Obesity is an international health problem. Without intervention, more than half the global population will be living with overweight or obesity problems by 2035, according to the World Obesity Federation. The World Health Organization in 2021 estimated that worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975. Meanwhile, during this same period there has been the introduction of hundreds of petrochemical-based pesticides with the promise of increased food production and pest protection that can be achieved with nontoxic practices.

Beyond Pesticides has discussed extensively the impact of pesticides on public health, as well as opportunities to safeguard yourself and your loved ones from their health impacts. As a keynote speaker at Beyond Pesticides’ 36th National Pesticide Forum, “Organic Neighborhoods: For healthy children, families, and ecology,” Bruce Blumberg, PhD broke down the impacts of prenatal obesogens in the session Cutting Edge Science. “In the obesogen-exposed animals, this structure is disturbed, and that leads to heritable changes in which genes are expressed. This altered structure is inherited, and that leads us to get this leptin-resistant thrifty phenotype four generations later, as published in Ancestral perinatal obesogen exposure results in a transgenerational thrifty phenotype in mice.” There are several aspects of obesogens that scientists are still determining, including the number of obesogens and the degree to which prenatal exposure alters adult phenotype from babies as they grow up from ancestors who have intergenerational interactions with obesogens. There is also a study that describes associations between type 2 diabetes, obesity, and pesticide exposure, specifically β-Hexachlorocyclohexane (β-BHC) and oxadiazon.

What scientists do know are the links between health impacts, toxic pesticide exposure, and healthy alternatives. In 2018, researchers presented the following recommendations on how to avoid exposure to obesogens to the European Society for Endocrinology in Barcelona:

  • “Choosing fresh food over processed products with long lists of ingredients on the label – the longer the list, the more likely the product is to contain obesogens
  • Buying fruit and vegetables produced without pesticides, such as certified organic or local pesticide-free products.
  • Reducing the use of plastic, especially when heating or storing food. Instead, use glass or aluminum containers for your food and drinks.
  • Removing shoes when entering the house to avoid bringing in contaminants in the sole of shoes.
  • Vacuuming often, using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters and dust your house frequently using a damp cloth.
  • Removing or minimizing carpet at home or work, as they tend to accumulate more dust.
  • Avoiding cleaning products when possible or choose those that do not contain obesogens.”

Beyond Pesticides has a variety of resources and information to empower consumers with the tools to protect their well-being and opportunities to advocate for the mission to eliminate petrochemical pesticides in the next decade. An effective way to avoid obesogen exposure is purchasing organic food. See Eating With A Conscience and Feeding Your Family Organic…Affordably on strategies for more information.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Environment & Health

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