Does the environment play a role in obesity?

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Researchers are now looking closely at possible links between chemicals in our environment and obesity, diabetes and early puberty in girls (as well as late puberty in boys). A growing body of evidence points to links between obesity and chemicals such as phthalates that are found in plastic bottles and a wide range of household and personal care products. These chemicals are known as ‘endocrine disruptors’ and the ones that can cause us to gain weight are called ‘obesogens’.

Programmed to Be Fat
Directed by Bruce Mohun, written by Bruce Mohun and Helen Slinger, Dream Film, 2012
A documentary exploring the burgeoning new science of obesogenics that suggests being overweight is not just the result of too much food, too little exercise, and genetics, but also exposure to environmental chemicals during fetal development. (First aired January 2012 on CBC’s “The Nature of Things”. Viewable on-line.)

Obesogens: An Environmental Link to Obesity
By Wendee Holtcamp, Environmental Health Perspectives, 2012 
An excellent introduction to the science of obesogenics that complements the film Programmed to be Fat as it discusses the work of several of the researchers featured in the film.

The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls: What We Know, What We Need to Know
By Sandra Steingraber, Breast Cancer Fund, 2007
A comprehensive introduction to the complex – and as yet little understood – topics of the relationships among obesity, early puberty in girls and synthetic chemicals in our environment.

Endocrine Disruption: Sex and Gender-Based Analysis of This Topic
The Source
Discusses how women, who are still the primary caregivers, are more exposed to common endocrine disrupting chemicals such as household cleaning products, than are men.

Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum
The Collaborative on Health and the Environment
Examines obesity’s relationship to diabetes, and possible relationships being explored between synthetic chemicals and diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome.

Diabetes and the Environment: Articles in the Popular Press
Diabetes and the environment 
An array of resources for further reading on diabetes and obesity and synthetic chemicals. 

Maternal Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC)
Health Canada
A study underway on environmental chemicals of pregnant women and their affect on breast milk and their children, which was profiled in Programmed to be Fat.

The Obelix Project
European Commission
Discussed in Programmed to be Fat, OBELIX (OBesogenic Endocrine disrupting chemicals: LInking prenatal eXposure to the development of obesity later in life) is investigating if prenatal exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds in food plays a role in the development of obesity and related disorders later in life.

Our Stolen Future
Explores the emerging science of endocrine disruption, or how some synthetic chemicals interfere with the ways that hormones work in humans and wildlife.
Search on this website using the term ‘obesity’ to find articles examining the possible links between chemical pollution and obesity.


How can we prevent obesity? 
Is obesity really an epidemic? Should we wage war on it?
Health at Every Size:  Can we make peace with obesity?