Hidden fattening foods: These chemicals drastically affect our metabolism

Hidden fattening foods: These chemicals drastically affect our metabolism

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How endocrine disruptors affect our hormonal balance

A large EU research project is currently investigating a group of chemicals suspected of negatively affecting human metabolism. There are numerous indications that so-called endocrine disruptors promote weight gain and metabolic diseases such as fatty liver, high blood lipids and diabetes. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals or mixtures of chemicals that interfere with hormone-controlled signaling pathways.

The starting signal for the Europe-wide research project EDCMET was given in January 2019. In the project, researchers want to investigate the effect of endocrine disruptors on the metabolism. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been warning of these common chemicals that we constantly ingest through food and care products in the report “Global Assessment of the State of the Science of Endocrine Disruptors” since 2002.

The body's hormones regulate numerous functions

Hormones are usually used by humans and other organisms as signaling molecules, which are usually transported through the blood and thus cause certain reactions in the whole body. For example, they regulate the development, growth, reproduction and behavior of humans and animals.

How do endocrine disruptors intervene in this natural process?

Certain chemicals are similar in chemical structure to natural hormones. If they get into the body, they can be mistaken for natural hormones. This can lead to a number of consequences:

  • The effects of the body's own hormones can be weakened or increased.
  • The production of certain hormones can be excessively increased or decreased.
  • The transport routes in the blood can be disrupted.
  • Enzymes for regulating a natural hormone balance can be inhibited.
  • The breakdown of hormones can get out of balance.
  • Natural metabolism can be messed up.

How do endocrine disruptors get into the body?

Endocrine disruptors are used to produce many synthetic materials. They are also widely used in the food and care products industry to manufacture plastic boxes, plastic bottles, tetra packs and cans. They are also used in pesticides and thus end up in soils and water. According to the WHO, the chemical most often gets into the body through food and drinking liquids that have previously been stored in plastic or have come into contact with pesticides. They can also be absorbed through skin contact, for example with care products or industrial cleaning agents.

Final proof is now to be provided

Although the endocrine disruptors are associated with a large number of negative effects, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has so far lacked clear scientific evidence as to whether and how these hormone-imitating chemicals interfere with metabolism. As a result, there are currently no validated methods for assessing their metabolic effects.

New routine test for chemicals

As part of the project, the researchers will investigate how the chemicals affect the fat and energy metabolism in liver cells. This study is also expected to create a new routine method for testing chemicals to prevent further endocrine disruptors from circulating.

Is the ban on use?

"The identification of such endocrine disruptors and their effects on bodily functions is a central aspect in the risk assessment of chemicals," reports BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel in a press release on the new EU project. Such reliable evidence with validated methods is essential to initiate legal regulatory measures. (vb)

Author and source information

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