Researcher: link between chemicals and obesity

WATERVILLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Many experts say the rise in obesity is an “epidemic” of this generation. But reseachers now believe being overweight may also be connected to exposure to certain chemicals that are found in consumer products.

It is the same story you hear from doctors every where. Dr. Bruce Blumberg of the University of California at Irvine says we commonly hear that we are too fat because we eat too much and we exercise too little. But Blumberg, a biologist, believes something else is contributing to why so many Americans are overweight.

His research has suggested that some people may be at risk for obesity even before they are born.

Blumberg is credited with coining the phrase ‘obesogen’ for certain chemicals that have altered the metabolism in lab animals.

“They activate a receptor in the body called PB Orgama, which is known to control the development of fat cells,” said Blumberg.

Blumberg was the keynote speaker at a recent conference in Waterville focusing on the connection between chemicals, obesity and diabetes. Blumberg says they include several industrial chemcials found in plastics, food packaging and pesticides. Among them include tributyltin, known as TBT and Bisphenol-A, or BPA.

BPA is being phased out of children’s products in Maine, because it has been linked to cancer and developmental problems in animal studies.

“Fetal exposure to a chemical like bpa may actually cause increased fat cell production in a child or an adult of 20,30, 40 years old,” says Steve Taylor of the Environmental Health Policy Center.

Organizers of the conference hope that Maine officials will take the information about chemicals and obesity and come up with a policy to regulate the use of chemicals. Researchers admit more study is needed to show how key of a role chemicals play when it comes to obesity.

Despite the findings of Dr. Blumberg’s research, doctors recommend that people trying to lose weight should continue to eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise.

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