The Grapevine

How Everyday Products May Contribute To Obesity

Could our body gain weight from the mere exposure to certain products? New findings narrowed down everyday sources that were most likely to interfere with our hormones and promote fat storage.

The research was presented at the 2018 European Society of Endocrinology meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

Dr. Ana Catarina Sousa led the study with her research group from the Universities of Aveiro and Beira Interior in Portugal. They conducted a review of the literature on foreign chemical compounds known as obesogens to find out where people are most likely to come into contact with them. 

How could obesogens affect our body?

Namely, there are two ways obesogens can reprogram how our cells work. They can promote fat accumulation by increasing fat cells in terms of quantity or size as well as by increasing appetite. In another way, they can also affect our ability to burn calories and hinder the process of fat loss.

"Obesogens can be found almost everywhere, and our diet is a main source of exposure, as some pesticides and artificial sweeteners are obesogens. Equally, they are present in plastics and home products, so completely reducing exposure is extremely difficult - but to significantly reduce it is not only feasible but also very simple," Dr. Sousa said.

What were the findings of the research?

According to the findings, the main sources of indoor exposure to obesogens were diet, house dust, and everyday products such as cleaning chemicals, kitchenware or cosmetics.

Dr. Sousa also highlighted how diet samples in some of the studies contained obesogens such as tributyltin, a moderately toxic chemical ingredient. Cadmium, a carcinogenic metal widespread in the environment and linked to certain types of cancer, was also found in some food products.

The findings included seven specific recommendations to minimize our exposure to these obesogens.

What are the seven recommendations offered by the review?

1. Fresh food is recommended over processed foods that carry a long list of ingredients on the label. The longer the list, the more likely is the presence of obesogens in the product.

2. Regular vacuuming with the use of high-efficiency particulate air filters as well as dusting the house frequently with the use of a damp cloth. 

3. Removing or minimizing carpets may also be beneficial as they may accumulate more dust. "Adults ingest about 50mg of dust every day, and children twice as much, so keeping the house clean is a very effective measure," Dr. Sousa said.

4. The use of plastic should remain as minimal as possible, especially when it is used with regards to heating or storing food. As an alternative, the researchers said people can opt for using glass or aluminum containers.

5. Removing shoes when entering the house was suggested in order to prevent the indoor spread of contaminants trapped in the soles of shoes.

6. Pesticides can be avoided by buying fruit and vegetables that are certified organic was recommended in addition to buying local pesticide-free products.

7. The researchers also discouraged the use of obesogen-containing cleaning products on a frequent basis. For regular cleaning, they ask people to choose products that do not contain obesogens.