Mini-Med 2016 #6- Weight Gain and Obesogens

Avoiding Weight Gain-it is not what you think.
Mini-Medical School #6 2016

Stephanie Taylor MD PhD

The holiday season is a very special time of the year and there are very special foods associated with holiday celebrations. Most celebration foods are high-calorie and many of us worry about weight gain during the holiday season. Traditional cookies are gingerbread, Pfefferneuse, Springerle, Lebkuchen, Pizelle, Spitzgeback, Repostria and Tirggel. Tirggel has been a traditional holiday food since the third millennium BCE. All of these are wheat based and high fat foods. The calorie count alone is enough to make you fret but in our complex contemporary society, today’s cookie is not the same treat it was just 100 years ago.

The world is experiencing a dramatic increase in body weight. Surveys comparing 1982 body weight to 2008 body weight show a doubling of obesity in adults and tripling in children. There are 100 million obese adults in the United States and 25.8 million adult onset diabetics. The incidence of diabetes is rapidly increasing.

Just how do you gain weight? You need to consume 3500 calories to gain 1 pound. To gain 100 pounds you need to consume an additional 350,000 calories or 1500 candy bars, or an additional 500 calories a day for 700 days. The observed increase in obesity does not directly match the increase in caloric intake, leading to an investigation into other causes of the obesity epidemic. In 2006, researchers at UC, Irvine discovered and named a class of chemicals which they call Obesogens. Obesogens cause weight gain not attributable to increased calories, exerting their metabolic effects on multiple pathways. They prevent mobilization of fat stores for energy and give directions to increase fat deposition. Obesogens also change metabolic set points which determine your body’s ideal weight or fat percentage. Even more concerning, animal studies show that these changes can pass through to subsequent generations.

You can be exposed to Obesogens from many sources, some quite unexpected. A common source is food and water. Obesogens are fat soluble and accumulate in animal and fish fat, especially if animals are fed non-organic feeds. Plastics and can linings can leach chemicals into food. Many herbicides and pesticides are obesogens. Another very common exposure is house dust. Household dust contains flame retardants from foam furniture, and degrading plastic from kitchen appliances and computers. Spraying of agricultural fields exposes children and adults to drift. Obesogenic air pollutants include auto exhaust, and particulates from the road and burning fuels. Many chemicals can be absorbed through the skin, and are present in cosmetics, skin products and household cleaners. In addition to the weight gain issue, many of these chemicals, especially glyphosate, are linked to other very serious diseases: diabetes, autism, neurological degeneration of all types, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, mitochrondrial damage and chronic fatigue, overgrowth of pathogenic gut bacteria, infertility and even prion diseases.

Obesogens-the Rogues Gallery

  • Bisphenol A plastics, carbonless paper, can linings
  • Perfluoroalkyl Nonstick cookware, water-repellent fabrics
  • Organotins In Agriculture and industry, wood preservative
  • Dithiocarbamates Cosmetics and Ag products
  • Nonylphenol Cosmetics and household cleaners
  • Pesticides Gardening, household control and pet collars
  • Atrazine Contaminates drinking water
  • DDE Breakdown product of DDT
  • PCBs Lubricants and flame retardants
  • HCB Fungicide, now banned
  • Oxychlordane Pesticide, now banned
  • Dioxanes and furans PVC plastics
  • PBDEs Flame retardants
  • Phtalates Some plastics-See scorecard
  • Prescription Rx DES, some antidepressants, Thiazolidinediones(PPAR-ɣ agonists)
  • Glyphosate Food, water, herbicides

This last chemical, glyphosate is more familiar as an ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup. Exposure to glyphosate has dramatically increased since 1975, and especially with the recent adoption of pre-harvest spraying. In the last 10 years, 2.4 Billion pounds of Roundup have been used in the USA. Roundup is used on all GMO (genetically modified) crops, and also non-GMO crops to facilitate the harvest processing.  .  In the USA, 93% of all soybeans, and 89% of all corn crops are genetically modified. Additional staple foods that are usually GMO are cotton, sugar beets and canola. These basic foods are processed into other common ingredients such as canola oil, high fructose corn syrup, and beet sugar. They are incorporated into about ¾ of all processed foods. Non-GMO grains which are sprayed pre-harvest are: wheat, oats, barley and other grains. Purchasing a grain labelled Non-GMO does not protect you from glyphosate exposure. The label must state the grain is produced organically. Unfortunately, even organic foods are contaminated with glyphosate due to groundwater contamination and drift.  Roundup cannot be removed by washing or peeling. It is incorporated into the body of the plant.

Weeds are smart and are increasingly resistant to Roundup. The newer Roundup and herbicide formulations include 2,4-D ( a primary ingredient in Agent Orange) and dicamba which are even more toxic. It is also important to know that the dose does not make the poison. Endocrine disruptors are active at doses much lower than specified toxic levels, and over a longer period of time. These low doses and long durations are not included, nor required, in most applications for safety certification.

Prudent Avoidance

Eat Organic, including the feed for the chickens, dairy cows and meat animals.
Vacuum a lot.
Read labels and reject products with unfamiliar chemical names OR “Fragrance”.
Remember “Natural” has no legal meaning.

Helpful Resources

Environmental toxin screening of blood and urine is available from several specialty labs. Once you have your results, you will need to search your environment for sources, and they are not always what you expect! You may need help tracking contaminants. More physicians, naturopaths and food advocates are educating themselves on the health effects of environmental chemicals. One local active resource is Hayward Healthy House.
http://www.haywardhealthyhome.com
Food Democracy Now! Food testing results on glyphosate. Access the full report here:
https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.fooddemocracynow.org/images/FDN_Glyphosate_FoodTesting_Report_p2016.pdf
Food and Water Watch   http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org
UCSF Program on Health and the Environment http://prhe.ucsf.edu/
Health and Environment Online    https://healthandenvironmentonline.com/
Environmental Working Group      http://www.ewg.org/

The Cornucopia Institute. The Cornucopia Institute engages in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Through research and investigations on agricultural issues, The Cornucopia Institute provides needed information to consumers, family farmers, and the media. The Cornucopia Institute is recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public interest group. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of law. Access at:  https://www.cornucopia.org/

Attend the EcoFarm Conference held at Asilomar Conference Center in late January. Single day tickets are available, and you do not need to be a farmer to attend. One of the biggest thrills of EcoFarm is seeing the large number of young people participating.

The scheduled EcoFarm speakers for 2017 are here:
https://eco-farm.org/conference/2017/schedule