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January 17, 2008
Thousands of chemicals have come on the market in the past 30 years, and some of them are showing up in people’s bodies in low levels. Scientists studying obesity are focusing on endocrine disrupters - which have already been linked to reproductive problems
in animals and humans - because they have become so common in the environment and are known to affect fat cells.
But could something in the environment also be making Americans fat in epidemic numbers?Animal studies in recent years raise the possibility that prenatal exposure to minuscule amounts of common chemicals - found in everything from baby bottles to toys -
could predispose a body to a life of weight gain. The chemicals, known as endocrine disrupters, mimic natural hormones that help regulate, for example, how many fat cells a body makes and how much fat to store in them.These findings have led some scientists
to put forth a provocative argument: They say diet and too little exercise clearly are key reasons for the worldwide rise in obesity in the past 20 years, but they may not be the only ones. Food intake and exercise just haven’t changed that much in that period,
they argue. And while genetics obviously play a role - just think of someone you know who can eat three Big Macs a day and never gain an ounce - these researchers say it would be impossible to see such widespread genetic change in just two decades, giving
them more reason to suspect the environment.
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