Chemicals in Food that Make You Fat
For decades we’ve been told that the “formula” for weight loss is incredibly simple: eat less and exercise more.
Unfortunately, that’s very far from the whole truth.
We’re now learning that there are powerful influences on weight that go beyond calories and exercise.
We’re at the infancy of our knowledge about obesity, and we’re not all that brilliant about weight loss in general. But one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is this: it’s notjust about eating less.
No one wakes up in the morning and says, “Hey, I think I’d like to be obese!”
I’ve talked to serious scientists who’ve been studying this stuff for 20 years, people who the media would consider A-list experts, and privately they’ll tell you that obesity is baffling and mysterious and that they’re just scratching the surface of the subject.
One of the most disturbing discoveries in the past decades has been that chemicals in our food and our environment are actually obesity promoters. Known as “endocrine disrupters”, these chemicals “mimic” what hormones in our body do.
Scientists are now calling these chemicals obesogens.
Why Obesogens Make You Fat…
Obesogens are chemicals that hijack hormonal pathways, sending messages to cells to store fat and generally disrupting the regulatory system that helps control appetite and weight.
They can do this by increasing your number of fat cells, by lowering the number of calories you burn, and by playing havoc with the mechanisms (like the hormone leptin) that regulate our appetite.
High fructose corn syrup, for example, is an obesogen. It makes you insulin resistant and interferes with leptin efficiency. The result is a double whammy: you crave more food and the food you eat turns into fat more easily.
Even tap water contains obesogens. One in particular—atrazine—slows thyroid hormone metabolism.
Another—a fungicide called tributylin—stimulates the production of fat cells.
Then there is bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen that has been shown to increase insulin resistance, which is at the heart of obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
And phthalates, which are chemicals found in all sorts of products from shower curtains to perfumes, may lower your metabolism, leading to increased weight and lowered muscle mass.
What a mess.
What to Do about Obesogens…
Avoiding these chemicals is no small trick, especially since we haven’t even identified all the potential endocrine disrupters in the environment and food supply, and no one knows the “safe” dose of any of them.
This is why, in my judgment, it’s always prudent to err on the side of caution.
Eat food that your grandmother would have recognized as food. Avoid food with bar codes. Buy organic—especially for the “dirty dozen”, foods that have been found to have the greatest pesticide residue. You can find out what the “dirty dozen” are at the Environmental Working Group’s website.
Since many of the foods that contain these endocrine disrupters are processed foods that are also addictive, breaking the addiction to sugar should be a primary goal of anyone who wants to lose weight and get healthy.
And make no mistake—the foods that make us fat, sick, tired and depressed areas addictive as any drug on the planet.
Here are seven more steps you can take to avoid obesogens so you can lose weight more effectively:
1. Buy fish and meat that is hormone- and antibiotic-free. That means wild salmon, grass-fed beef, and pastured pork and chicken only.
2. Use stainless steal bottles or those that are BPA-free.
3. Don’t let plastic water bottles get hot—it increases the leaching of BPA into the water.
4. Never, ever put plastic in the microwave
5. Move away from canned foods and towards food that comes in pouches when possible.
6. Dump your air fresheners. Try opening a window or putting out a nice diffuser of potpourri or fresh lavender instead
7. Get rid of non-stick pans, especially those with Teflon. If you must use them, never ever use a metal implements on them, as that can scratch the surface and release damaging chemicals.
While the science around obesogens if far from complete, there is no longer any question that environmental toxins like these can and do cause weight gain for some.
My recommendation: Play it safe and eliminate as many of these toxic chemicals from your environment using the steps above.
Your health and your waistline will thank you for it.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS aka “the Rogue Nutritionist”™
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