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Do these “obesogens” make me look fat?

Rising obesity levels are causing scientists to reexamine what makes us fat.
Rising obesity levels are causing scientists to reexamine what makes us fat.

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As Americans’ waistlines continue to grow, so too does the research into what makes us fat. Mostly, we think it’s about calories in, calories out. As in, when we consume more calories than we burn, we gain weight. But according to new research into the science of fat, this energy balance model might be overly simplistic.

There’s a relatively new field of research looking at the possible link between chemicals in our environment and obesity. Researchers call these substances “obesogens” and say exposure to them might be altering our metabolism and how we store fat.

Two such “obesogens” are High Fructose Corn Syrup and bisphenol-A or BPA. Rats who were fed High Fructose Corn syrup for a Princeton University study, gained more weight than those fed sugar water, even though the caloric intake was the same. BPA is a chemical we’re all exposed to because it’s found in many foods and packaging. Researchers from UC Irvine say that animals exposed to such chemicals in lab studies developed more and bigger fat cells.

How reliable is this research into obesogens? Are we packing on the pounds because of the potato chips or the plastic containers we use to store our food? If so, should food manufacturers be required to spell out more clearly what chemicals are in our foods and packaging?


Bruce Blumberg PhD, Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California, Irvine

Dr. Adrienne Youdim, Medical Director, Cedars-Sinai Weight Loss Center