For years, Americans have been gaining weight. It is now estimated that 2/3 of U.S. adults are now overweight. It’s been blamed on oversized portions, fast food, and too little exercise. The dogma that’s been in place for decades is >calories in, < calories out = weight gain. Now, according to researchers, another factor may be at work; a class of natural and synthetic chemicals known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC’s), or  obesogens.

The endocrine system secretes hormones into the blood which determine the growth and structure of many organs and control many body functions. The pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, and pancreas are some of the glands/organs associated with this system. The endocrine system controls growth and development, sexual function, mood, sleep, hunger, stress, metabolism, and reproduction. EDC’s, or obesogens, disrupt the hormonal system, and many researchers now believe they lead to weight gain and numerous diseases which plague America, such as diabetes and cancers. According to Jerry Heindel, PhD, an expert on EDC’s at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), these obesogens enter our body’s through several pathways: natural hormones found in soy products, hormones administered to animals and then consumed by humans, plastics in some food and drink packaging, ingredients added to processed foods, and pesticides sprayed on produce. They act on the endocrine system in various ways: by mimicking human hormones such as estrogen, by misprogramming stem cells to become fat cells, and actually altering the functions of  genes. What should you do? A great place to start is to get a copy of  “The New American Diet”, by Stephen Perrine, with Heather Hurlock. Some of their recommendations are: 1) Don’t eat plastic-no plastic item ever goes into the oven or microwave. Heat increases plastic (BPA) leaching. 2) Avoid plastic-wrapped meats, request the butcher to put meat in paper instead. The polyethylene in plastic lowers testosterone levels, leading to weight gain. 3). Cut down on canned foods like tuna and buy frozen veges in bags. Eden foods canned beans and jarred foods are a good choice since BPA’s are banned during the canning process. 4) Avoid drinking coffee or other hot beverages out of Styrofoam, which can leach styrene, a compound linked to cancer. And toss out any water bottle stamped with a 7 on the bottom, it may have BPA.  5) Stay away from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and soy, which are in everything from cookies to salad dressing to ketchup to chicken to farm-raised fish to cough medicines. The soy increases estrogens, which promote fat growth, and HFCS tricks your brain into craving more food, even when you don’t need it (check out the label on Coca Cola). 6) go with grass-fed beef. Supermarket beef and chicken are chock-full of grains and hormones. If the feed makes Elsie the Cow bigger, why not you? 7) Go organic with most fruits and veges. Apples, for instance, have been labeled on of the most pesticide-laden food choices out there.

Bottom line: find out where your food comes from whether you’re at the market, in a restaurant, or at the farmers market. Losing weight may be only part of the benefits you’ll gain.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.