Are Human-made Chemicals in the Environment A Cause of Obesity? Part 1

Steve Scher talks with Professor Bruce Blumberg about obesogens, hormone disrupting chemicals that seem to change human metabolism. 


We eat too much.  We eat too much processed foods high in calories. We don’t exercise enough. It is being called an obesity epidemic, and it is putting more and more people at risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other conditions at ever greater numbers around the world. But something more than our own actions seems to be at work resetting our bodies systems that regulate weight gain and loss.

Bruce Blumberg, a developmental biologist and a molecular endocrinologist, coined the term 'obesogens' in 2006 after he discovered that exposing pregnant mice to a chemical compound call Tributyltin made their offspring heavier than those not exposed-- even when they are on a normal diet. His lab is at the University of California, Irvine.

Scientists now know that fat tissue acts as an endocrine organ, releasing hormones related to appetite and metabolism. A rising number of manufactured chemicals bind to the same receptors as the hormones and either prevent proper actions by hormones or activate them in the wrong place and the wrong time.

These Chemical “obesogens” may alter human metabolism and predispose some people to gain weight.  

Studies show that obesity is strongly linked to exposures to risk factors, such as hormone distrupting chemicals, during fetal and infant development. Blumberg found that exposure to tributyltin predisposes lab animals to make more and bigger fat cells.  The insidious thing, Blumberg says is that animals exposed in utero to TBT are permanently affected 


Professor Bruce Blumberg spoke at the University of Washington in May 2015, part of the Weight and Wellness series at the UW.


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Support for At Length with Steve Scher comes from the University of Washington Alumni Association. and the UW Graduate School.