Scientists Say: Obesogens

These are chemicals that can contribute to obesity


Soft plastic toys, like this ducky, can contain phthalates — chemicals that may contribute to obesity.  

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Obesogens (noun, “o-BEE-so-gens”)

Obesogens are chemicals that can increase the risk of weight gain. Obesogens belong to a group of chemicals called endocrine disruptors. These chemicals mimic hormones, a group of chemicals that play many roles in the body. Hormones help guide our sexual development. They also determine when we sleep and control how much we eat.

When endocrine disrupters enter the body, they can imitate hormone signals. This can change the way our bodies function. Obesogens can work in this way. As a result, they can increase the number of fat cells in the body or make the body store more fat. They can also change how often someone feels full or hungry.

Chemicals such as bisphenol A — a molecule formerly used in plastics — may be obesogens. Cigarette smoke and some kinds of air pollution may also act as obesogens.   

In a sentence

Even some house dust may contain materials that make fat cells grow.  

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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