'Obesogens': Another Cause of Weight Gain?

Staff Writer
Chemicals and additives in food may also cause obesity

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Remember the days when extra calories were the only reason for weight gain? Turns out, according to researchers, consuming more calories isn't the only reason for gaining a few extra pounds — The Atlantic reports that a new crop of chemicals and additives may be causing extra weight gain.

"Obesogens," a new term coined by Bruce Blumberg at the University of California, Irvine, refers to the chemicals and other non-caloric parts of food. The problem, he says, are organotins, a fancy term to describe a class of pollutants used in PVC plastics, fungicides, and pesticides. These chemicals have a big impact on how the body "responds to calories."

For example, one study from Princeton tested the difference in weight between rats who ate either high-fructose corn syrup or sugar water. Those who chugged on the synthetic syrup gained more, even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories.

Another obesogen that's raised a red flag: BPA. Some researchers now say the chemical, which is found in a multitide of food products and containers (i.e. soup cans), is changing how fat is regulated in certain studies.

However, many are hesitant to throw out the caloric, energy-balance theory for weight gain just yet. With more than one hundred biological factors that determine weight gain, it's hard to prove that "obesogens" cause more harm than, say, the calories in a Big Mac. Still, with new research each week showing the alarmingly harmful effects of additives in food, it may be best to avoid chemical-ridden snacks for now.