Thursday, 22 June 2017

Too Many Are Unaware of the Obesity-Cancer Link

Prevention skeptics would tell you that if cancer was preventable and we knew what caused it, then no one would be developing it. This is, however, not the case, and it isn't just about people continuing to smoke despite knowing the risks. After smoking, obesity is the second most common cause of cancer, but the message doesn't seem to be getting through to people! Cancer Research UK has recently found that 75% of people don't know that obesity contributes to several types of cancer, including breast cancer. Men and members of lower-income families are less likely to be aware of the connection. In the UK, one quarter of people are obese, even though it is now common knowledge that staying active and eating a healthy diet, high in vegetables and fruit, can prevent and reverse obesity. We are told this since childhood, but obesity rates haven't fallen as much as they should. Many naturopaths point out that diet and exercise aren't always enough because of environmental toxins, but is there any evidence to back this up?

Even makeup may contain phthalates.
Source: Tiffany Bailey (CC: 2.0)
Actually, both human and animal studies have found that environmental toxins, such as BPA, can dramatically raise the risk of becoming obese. After animal studies found that BPA could raise the risk of being overweight or obese, researchers set out to see if it had the same effect in humans. Over 1300 boys and girls from grades 4-12 at several Shanghai schools had their urine levels of BPA tested and compared to their body weight. Girls aged 9-12 with a higher than average level of BPA (over 2 micrograms/litre) had twice the risk of having their body weight in the top 10th percentile. If their BPA levels were over 10 micrograms/litre, they had five times the risk of obesity. Thirty-six percent of the girls with above-average BPA levels were overweight or obese, compared to 21% with below-average levels. Boys, however, did not seem to be affected by BPA, most likely because it is oestrogenic. The authors then suggested that BPA could increase weight gain and accelerate pubertal development for girls during their pre-teen years. BPA also reduces adiponectin, a hormone that increases insulin sensitivity, along with other negative effects on the pancreas, thyroid hormone pathways and brain function. All of this may worsen the severity of food cravings and reduce the energy and motivation needed to get active. To minimise your exposure to BPA, use plastic and cans as little as possible for food preparation and storage; and use plastic in general as little as possible too.

Besides BPA, another hormone-disrupting class of chemical called phthalates has also been shown to increase obesity. These are found in personal care and cosmetic products; plastics and even in medication and supplement coatings. While phthalate exposure is near universal, one study has shown that children with the highest levels of DEHP, one of the phthalates, had five times the risk of obesity compared to children with the lowest levels! Together with BPA and other hormone disrupting chemicals, this may help to explain why the rate of childhood obesity in the USA has grown from 7% in 1980, to over 40% in 2008, with 15% of 6-19 year olds classed as "obese". In conclusion, if diet and exercise aren't shifting unwanted weight in you or your child, it may be time to look at what chemicals you are being exposed to.

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