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Does Pollution Cause Obesity and Diabetes?

Overeating and low activity levels are the main culprits of obesity, but environmental chemicals sure aren't helping.

November 8th, 2011

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Pollutants May Cause Obesity and Diabetes

Living an overindulgent, couch potato existence certainly isn’t doing your waistline any favors but there may be other influences that are making you fat.

Some scientists now believe that pollution may be at least partially to blame for the exploding obesity and type II diabetes epidemics.

In a recent review paper published in the online version of Environmental Health Perspectives, Cornell University researchers raised the possibility that environmental pollutants may somehow affect microbes found in the gut. Although these digestive tract bacteria outnumber human cells by a factor of 10, their function largely remains a mystery.

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We do know they play a key role in weight and insulin control and exposure to everyday pollutants like those found in plastics, pesticides and drinking water seems to wreak havoc on their ability to metabolize fat.

According to Nikhil Dhurandhar, Ph.D., an associate professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana and an obesity research pioneer, the mechanism for dysfunctional fat metabolism may differ depending on which chemical the gut microbes are exposed to. “In some cases a pollutant may cause them to increase fat storage, in other cases it may trigger overeating or affect energy regulation,” he notes.

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Another theory is that the chemicals may interrupt critical periods of development during puberty, possibly increasing a predisposition towards weight gain and diabetes.

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