Could this common chemical jumpstart childhood obesity?

I often talk about our country’s childhood obesity crisis. And how environmental chemicals are feeding into it.

But now, a new study shines light on how the path toward obesity can begin before a child is even born. And the results of this latest research are enough to give any pregnant woman pause…

A “cosmetic” cause of obesity

 As you may already know, parabens are chemical preservatives added to kill microbes in cosmetics, creams, lotions, and other personal care products. You’ll encounter them a lot—perhaps every day—on ingredients lists, with names like methylparaben, propylparaben, or butylparaben.

And that’s exactly what makes this latest finding so alarming.

German researchers started with data from the LINA mother-child study—a long-term study designed to examine the impact of environmental factors on the development of issues like allergies and obesity in childhood. The goal, in this case, was to see whether levels of parabens in an expectant mother’s urine had an impact on her child’s weight.

Sure enough, higher levels of parabens in pregnancy correlated with higher body mass index (BMI) in the early years of a child’s life.

Researchers then referenced questionnaires that the women had filled out to help determine where these parabens were coming from. And as you might expect, the moms with the highest levels were the ones using products that contained them—especially products that stay on the skin, like body lotion.

The question remained, however, as to why the parabens were causing these children to be overweight. And that’s where things really get interesting…

Hardwired for hunger

Human fat cell cultures showed that exposure to high concentrations of parabens didn’t increase the size of these cells. It also didn’t cause the cells to store more fat than normal.

So the researchers turned their microscopes onto mice instead. Lo and behold, they observed the same phenomenon in the offspring of pregnant rodents who were exposed to parabens.

But they also found that these overweight offspring ate more than the control mice. Closer examination revealed that paraben exposure actually altered key hunger-regulating genes in the hypothalamus. And that this epigenetic change permanently altered these mice’s natural satiety mechanisms.

In other words, paraben exposure in utero genetically hardwired these babies to overeat. And I think we all know what happens next…

Researchers still aren’t sure as to the full implications of these findings. And whether or not the modified hunger genes can be passed on to future generations.

But they do make one very clear recommendation: “Bearing in mind the future health of their children, expectant mothers really should use paraben-free products during the sensitive periods of pregnancy and breastfeeding.”

And needless to say, I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’ll take that a step further and suggest that everyone avoid parabens at all costs—not just pregnant or nursing mothers.

You can start by looking up your favorite products on the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database. And only purchasing/using products that aren’t packed with hidden toxins that could be harmful to you or your children.

P.S. I often write about how you can limit your exposure to environmental toxins—both inside and outside of your home. And in the September 2014 issue of my monthly Logical Health Alternatives newsletter (“How to defuse a rogue immune system—without becoming your own worst enemy”), I explain how you can lighten your toxic burden. So if you haven’t already, consider signing up today. Click here now!


“If pregnant women use cosmetics containing parabens, this may have consequences.” Science Daily, 02/12/2020. (