Endocrine Disruptor Exposure in Childhood Boosts Obesity Risk
Children who are exposed to common chemicals called endocrine disruptors are more likely to develop obesity later in life. Even when that exposure was brief. That’s disheartening, because these chemicals are virtually everywhere in the environment. One well-known example is bisphenol-A, or BPA. It’s a chemical used by the plastics industry to make plastics more pliable. Until recently, it was included in everything from vinyl shower curtains to teething rings intended for babies. It’s also present in water bottles and food-can liners, so exposure has been widespread. Even worse, it persists in the environment. Evidence suggests it’s already circulating in the bloodstreams of the vast majority of Americans.
Given the rise of the obesity epidemic, it’s alarming to think that little is being done to reverse this trend. While some manufacturers have voluntarily removed BPA from items intended for baby’s mouth, the chemical is still in wide use. Every time you accept a cash-register receipt, you’re getting trace amounts of BPA on your fingers, for example. Even worse, some manufacturers have switched to an alternative—BPS. Problem is, it’s also a potent endocrine disruptor. And mounting evidence suggests it’s no safer than BPA.
In rats, even brief exposure to BPA in “childhood” is linked to eventual adult obesity and fatty liver disease. "Even a short exposure to these endocrine disruptors at the wrong time of development has a lifelong effect on the individual," said the study's senior investigator, Cheryl Lyn Walker, PhD, of Texas A&M University. Because the changes take place at the molecular level, the effects may remain undetectable for many years.
The exposure evidently alters the expression of DNA. The complex sets of instructions that make us all unique are coded in our DNA, and these codes are “set in stone”. But in recent decades, scientists have discovered that it’s possible, through various mechanisms, to silence, or activate, certain genes. Known as epigenetics, this new branch of science has shown that environmental factors can affect future generations by provoking these types of changes, which can often be passed down from generation to generation. Things like exercise and healthy diet, for example, have been shown to promote beneficial epigenetic changes.
BPA exposure, in contrast, evidently provokes epigenetic changes that eventually promote fatty liver disease and obesity. I don’t know about you, but I’m more committed than ever to avoiding this persistent toxin, which manufacturers continue to insist is safe. It is clearly not safe. What will it take to get the chemical industry to stop foisting potentially dangerous chemicals on a trusting and unsuspecting public? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this troubling issue.
Newswise website. Articles page. Accessed Mar. 9, 2015 from: http://www.newswise.com/articles/endocrine-disruptors-cause-fatty-liver