Nutrition 201: How Lotion and Store Receipts Are Making You Fat


  • Obesogens are chemical compounds that disrupt the endocrine (hormone) system confusing your body on whether to store or burn fat and is believed to be a major contributing factor to obesity
  • These are found in common items you’re exposed to everyday such as lotions, store receipts, shower curtain, cosmetics, water bottles, cookware
  • See the video below for a great explanation 

What if I told you that handling too many store receipts is contributing to your weight gain or your inability to lose weight? How about that lotion you use every morning, is it causing you to pack on the pounds? That is the theory behind obesogens. Bruce Bloomberg, a biology professor at the University of California at Irvine, coined the term “obesogen” in 2006. However in 2002 the idea that environment may be contributing to the obesity epidemic was introduced by Paula Baillie-Hamilton in an article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Her research revealed studies going back to the 1970s demonstrated that exposure to chemicals even at low doses contributed to weight gain in lab animals. At the time of that article, however, researchers didn’t focus on the connection between the chemicals and weight gains.

An obesogen is a chemical compound that, once introduced to your system by ingestion or contact, disrupts your body’s lipid and metabolism systems. And you are exposed to them all day everyday in your foods, your cosmetics, toiletries and even store receipts. Think of this as having two remotes to your TV. If the TV is your body and you have the remote control in your hand you are telling the TV when to change the channel, volume up or down, etc. Imagine your neighbor next door has a remote that also works your TV. The TV , your body, is now receiving two different signals one from your remote and one from your neighbor, obesogen. But for some reason your TV is more responsive to your neighbor’s remote and is only changing channels for you some of the time. Obesogens mess up the signal to your body to release or store fat.

Obesogens are believed to do the following:

  • Increasing the fat storage capacity of fat cells (adipocytes)
  • Changes the metabolism to burn less calories at rest and encourage excess calories to be stored as fat
  • Disrupt the signals of hunger and fullness

These chemical compounds are also referred to as endocrine disrupters. Your hormones via the endocrine system tell your body what to do from waking up in the morning to when to eat. Running five miles doesn’t help if you’re body is confused as to do what to do with the calories – store them or burn them. Your body may be thinking it burned 800 calories today so it needs to immediately store 800 calories to replace it and never creates the deficit you need to lose weight.

Can you avoid obesogens? Not entirely. I have reduced my exposure to as much as possible. Here’s a list of the best known and many can be avoided:

  • BPA – the FDA has been working to eliminate this from baby bottles and canned foods, use glassware instead or clearly labeled BPA-free items. This is used in receipt paper, so reduce your exposure to these as much as possible.
  • PVC – many water pipes are made of this material, hard to avoid if it’s in your home
  • Phthalates – primarily used in anything with fragrance such as cosmetics, lotion, shampoo, air fresheners, laundry detergent, etc.; this is also found in vinyl products such as shower curtains
  • Fungicides (weed killers) and pesticides – primarily used on fruits and vegetables you find in the grocery store (not used on organic produce)
  • Parabans – used in cosmetics, shampoo, conditioners, as a preservative
  • Teflon or coated non-stick cookware
  • Pre-packaged meats and fish and farm-raised fish

What’s next?  Scientists and researchers still have a long way to go in proving the link between toxins and obesity. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, is investing $20 million to research. In the meantime make a conscious decision to eliminate or drastically reduce your exposure to as many obesogens as possible. There is definitely evidence to support the connection, but it’s going to take enough data to fill the Grand Canyon to get large companies to change their practices. Vote with your dollars! Companies will make what people buy.

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Obesogens: An Environmental Link To Obesity. February 1, 2012. 
What’s Making America So Fat. 


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