Chemical soup is feeding the American obesity crisis

I talk about the dangers of everyday chemicals so much in this space that I can’t imagine you’re not already taking steps to decrease your exposure to these toxins. But trust me when I say that, whatever you’re doing, it probably isn’t enough.

Let me be clear—that’s not your fault. Because it’s not for a lack of trying. It’s because these chemicals are literally everywhere. And I don’t just mean the herbicides and pesticides we talked about last week.

I also mean your personal care products—skin creams, dental floss, and antiperspirants. And your household supplies, like detergents and floor cleaners. Not to mention any type of plastic packaging—and even cash register receipts…to name a few!

It’s is more than any one person could possibly avoid completely. But that doesn’t make the situation any less dire. And at last, someone other than myself is speaking up about it.

In fact, one speaker at the most recent meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) called out these chemicals as major contributors to the American childhood obesity epidemic. And even called on pediatricians to start educating parents and advocating against their use.

(As if pediatricians—most of whom still toe the line when it comes to bundling vaccinations and other questionable practices—could make any difference. But that’s a rant for another day.)

For now, let’s take a cold, hard look at just how serious this situation is.

The scary facts about fattening chemicals

According to a recent analysis, exposure to synthetic chemicals in the womb seems to jumble hormonal signaling and sets children up for obesity and heart risks later in life.

More specifically, these chemicals disrupt metabolic pathways in a way that literally makes fat cells bigger, and triggers dysfunction of heart-protective proteins. And that’s just for starters. Add in the effects of estrogen-mimicking compounds like bisphenol A (BPA), and you have a whole different layer of sex-specific obesity risks that emerge during puberty.

I’ve written about the dangers of BPA several times. Manufacturers have been using this chemical to make plastics and resins for a half century now, at great cost to the public health.

BPA leaches from plastic containers into food and drinks. And once it’s in your body, it imitates estrogen—leading to early puberty, lower fertility, higher body fat, and altered nervous system and immune function.

All while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tells us that low-level exposure is completely safe, mind you. And that’s just one of a trio of “big bads”—the other two of which are phthalates, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFSAs).

Pthalates are chemicals used to make plastic softer and more flexible. And just like BPA, it’s everywhere—in vinyl flooring, raincoats, children’s toys…even detergents and shampoos.

These chemicals hijack receptors involved in fat and carbohydrate metabolism. They also trigger oxidative stress—a root cause of most diseases, but also a key factor behind insulin resistance. Which, in turn, paves the way to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

PFASs, meanwhile, have been around since the 1940s. These manmade chemicals include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). And you’ll find them in a lot of everyday household products, like stain- and water-repellant fabrics and nonstick pots and pans.

This class of chemicals is linked to weight regain—even among people who lost weight from good old-fashioned diet and exercise. In other words, these chemicals can make you fat even when you’re doing everything else right.

Simple changes make a difference

All of this is shocking, I know…What, so you’re telling me that chemicals aren’t good for us??? But this is the modern age! How are we to live without them?!?

Forgive my sarcasm, but disturbing as it is, I fail to see how this is “news”. Nothing comes without a cost. And we’ve sacrificed our children’s health on the altar of corporate greed. It really is that simple.

Whether we’re willing—or able—to reverse the damage remains to be seen. But there are things you can do to protect yourself and your family.

An easy way to limit exposure to bisphenols—and BPA in particular—is to avoid food that comes from a can, which often hides the chemical in its lining. Eliminating packaged and processed foods will help you to reduce phthalate exposure, too. And steering clear of nonstick cookware is one simple way limit your exposure to PFASs.

And whatever you do, never put plastic in the microwave—or in the dishwasher, with harsh chemicals, for that matter. Both will degrade the plastic, allowing microscopic phthalates to leach into food. So if you must use plastic, at the very least, hand wash it.

As for more meaningful action to protect the public, as it stands, the burden lies at the feet of the industry to determine the safety of their products. A laughable situation, if there ever was one.

What a lot of people still don’t realize is that just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe. Especially because many chemicals aren’t subject to rigorous regulatory processes. In fact, the last update to this protocol was way back in 1968—before there was even a man on the moon!

Needless to say, we have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to safety testing. But luckily, increased consumer awareness alone has cut levels of bisphenols and phthalates in half among the American public.

It’s a battle worth fighting, even if only for our kids’ sake. But what a pitiful shame that we’ve been left to do it on our own.

P.S. In the April 2019 issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter (“Staying healthy in a polluted world”), I discussed the many ways you can protect yourself—and your children—against the dangerous toxins that you come face-to-face with on a daily basis. Not a subscriber? No worries. Click here to learn more or sign up today.


Common Chemicals May Play a Role in Childhood Obesity.” Medscape Medical News, 04/27/2019. (