Obesogens: Chemicals and Endocrine Disruptors that Damage Metabolism

There are chemical substances in products that we use on a daily basis that alter the proper functioning of the endocrine system, causing growth and development problems, and even obesity from an early age.

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LatinAmerican Post | Yenny Rodríguez Barajas

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Leer en español: Obesógenos: químicos y disruptores endocrinos que dañan el metabolismo

When talking about obesity, it is usually related to unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Although these factors affect the accumulation of fat, they are not the only causes of energy imbalance. There are chemical substances present in products and utensils for daily use, which we incorporate into our bodies —without realizing it through the skin or breathing—, which act as endocrine disruptors. Among them, obesogens, which are present in many domestic and industrial products that alter hormonal control, among other effects. Specialists insist on the urgency of more exhaustive studies and measures to reduce exposure to these substances that impact public health.

Some of them are bisphenols (bisphenol-A, S, F), phthalates, organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated and polybrominated biphenyls, perfluorinated compounds, which are found in regularly used products such as bottles, plates, plastic cups, food containers and preserves and soft drinks in cans. Also in some plastic toys, perfumes, cosmetic and personal care products; Some detergents, solvents, nonstick cookware, and more may contain these types of substances.

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According to the endocrinologist, Dairo Vásquez Germán, "we are all exposed to these hormonal disruptors, but the most vulnerable stage is the embryonic and fetal period." On the other hand, he added that to counteract the effect of obesogens, "a diet healthy, accompanied by regular physical activity. Avoid diets rich in carbohydrates and a sedentary lifestyle, especially in early childhood, controlling the excessive use of computers and cell phones, and junk food that favors weight gain.

Effects of endocrine disruptors

Obesogens alter the proper functioning of the endocrine system, responsible for regulating the release of essential hormones for functions such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and even sleep or mood. This causes different alterations, diseases, and disorders that affect the quality of life.

“Disruptors deregulate metabolism, acting on receptors, metabolic markers, hormonal production and, especially, on hormones such as leptin and ghrelin, which play a key role in regulating appetite, food intake and energy metabolism, and NPY (gastrointestinal hormones)”, affirmed Vásquez Germán.

These chemical agents are so strong that they act by binding to any type of receptor: nuclear, membrane, neurotransmitter receptors (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine receptor) and even orphan receptors (aryl hydrocarbon receptor). They can even alter sexual and reproductive behaviors.

In addition, according to Luis Fernando Dorado Palacios, an endocrinologist at the National University of Colombia, the negative effects of exposure are not always immediately evident, but manifest themselves in the very long term and even in future generations. Additionally, they act at low doses. "There are multiple factors that affect fetal programming, speeding up the expression of genes that can be inherited from generation to generation."

Likewise, the specialist noted that "it is important from childhood to adopt healthy habits, such as stimulating the consumption of fruits, vegetables and water, avoiding processed and ultra-processed foods, and promoting a taste for physical activity with outdoor games, walking, riding a bicycle These activities allow the body to have a correct energy regulation, and thus, reduce the effects of obesogens and the risk of developing obesity-related diseases”.

Advances for the reduction of obesogens

According to a report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), many synthetic chemicals could have significant health implications, so further research is called to fully understand the relationships between these so-called endocrine disruptors (EPs) and certain diseases and disorders.

In this regard, Professor Paloma Alonso-Magdalena, from the Elche Institute for Research, Development, and Innovation in Health Biotechnology (IDIBE), highlights that crucial scientific work is currently being carried out to develop systems for the identification of compounds that can behave as disruptors that increase the risk of diseases such as obesity and diabetes. "These systems will respond to the current needs in the regulatory framework to have validated tools for the identification of harmful chemical substances and, in addition, will help to develop prevention programs and public health actions to reduce our daily exposure to endocrine disruptors", he stated in an interview on Medscape.

Along the same lines, Dr. Dorado Palacios reiterates that "the scientific community has been warning about the dangers and makes recommendations, but the regulation of toxic substances is the responsibility of governments, so it is expected that the risks of said substances will be accepted." substances and begin to take the necessary measures to control their use. Additionally, he added that it is "important to provide clear information to the population about the existence of these obesogens and their effects in different periods of life, especially the care of pregnant women and early childhood is urgent."

Some recommendations to reduce toxic substances

– Bisphenols are found in kitchen utensils, plastic cups, plates, and glasses, coffee machine cups, and bottles of water, juice, or soda. It is recommended to replace them with glass or wooden containers.

– Phthalates are found in dairy foods such as creams and cheeses; and in meat and fish. Also in fragrances, perfumes, air fresheners and soap for the washing machine and in cosmetic products such as lipsticks or shower gel. It is recommended to reduce the consumption of fatty products and prioritize the consumption of organic products. Perfume should be applied to clothing, not skin.

– The perfluorinated ones that are found in some nail polishes, dental floss, creams and makeup, water and stain resistant fabrics and even non-stick coatings, home food cartons and some paints for the house. Change for more natural and ecological products. Try to eat fresh foods and limit pre-cooked ones.

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