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You Ask, I Answer: Endocrine Disruptors & Obesity

Posted Jul 23 2010 5:17pm

Keep-the-Weight-Off-After-You-ve-Lost-It-Weigh-Yourself-Daily-or-Weekly_slideshow_imageWhat do you think of articles (like this one ) that link chemicals known as endocrine disruptors with obesity?

– Various Readers

While on vacation last week, I received over a dozen e-mails inquiring about endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and their potential role in “making Americans fat”. 

Also known as “obesogens”, these chemicals are present in pesticides, plastic containers, and unfiltered tap water.

According to the article linked to in this post, EDCs explain why “traditional diet advice choose chicken over beef, eat more fish, load up on fruits and vegetables may not work anymore.”

Hold up.  Do you see the problem with that description of supposed “traditional advice”?  None of it is about eating fewer calories!   “Choose chicken over beef”, for example, has very little to do with caloric intake (that advice has more to do with lowering saturated fat intake).

While I am not denying that EDCs exist, and can pose health consequences to us, I really dislike the notion that they are the reason “why you can’t lose those last ten pounds.”

EDCs may very well be a tiny factor in rising obesity rates, but we can’t ignore the main one excessive caloric intake.

By “excessive caloric intake”, I don’t simply mean “we are eating more”.  To me, “excessive caloric intake” encompasses crop subsidies (which make heavily processed, not-at-all filling ingredients cheap), exploding portion sizes (a direct result of crop subsidies), food deserts , and other social factors. 

Imagine, if you will, that you light a match and start a fire outdoors.  A gust of wind will strengthen it, but it did not start the fire.  The same can be said about EDCs and obesity.  They very well could be the wind that provides some extra fuel to the obesity flame, but they are certainly not the match that started it all.

I am not downplaying the benefits (both personal and environmental) of eating organic produce and avoiding BPA, but keep in mind that many people have successfully lost weight while strill drinking unfiltered tap water, eating conventional produce, and eating/drinking items from plastic containers. 

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