Is your body being fooled into gaining weight by xenoestrogens?
You may already know that estrogens are critical elements for maintaining health and balance in the body. But did you know that there are estrogen mimickers in our environment that can lead to hormonal imbalance, weight gain and disease?
Estrogens are hormones, chemical messengers that turn on or off various functions, especially in women. For instance, they are largely responsible for preparing the lining of the uterus in the middle of a woman’s cycle in order for it to be able to receive and nourish a fertilized egg. Fluctuations in estrogen levels are what women experience as hot flashes before and during menopause.
Estrogen produced by the ovaries helps prevent bone loss and works together with calcium, vitamin D and other hormones and minerals to build bones. The lack of estrogen brings on osteoporosis.
But what about estrogen mimickers? These are called xenoestrogens and come from a large group (tens of thousands) of foreign compounds derived from synthetic materials such as pesticides, plastics, body creams, detergents, food supplies and our environment. Xenoestrogens have the ability to disrupt our natural hormonal systems, creating hormonal havoc that can possibly lead to conditions such as prostate enlargement (BPA), prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, breast cancer, perimenopause, PMS and menopause, as well as weight gain – especially in the abdominal area.
Why xenoestrogens lead to weight gain
The problem is that the majority of these xenoestrogens are fat soluble, which means they have a greater potential of becoming lodged within our fat cells, and once there they are very difficult to get rid of.
When it comes to your metabolism, xenoestrogens cause disruption in the way your body metabolizes important biochemicals that deal with stress, moods, cravings, and sleep. Research presented in the American Journal of Physiology indicates that xenoestrogens have the potential to create an enhanced environment for our bodies to store fat, while making it extremely difficult to lose it.
Japanese researchers built upon this observation when they published a study in the Journal of Lipid Research showing that a common synthetic estrogen, called bisphenol A or BPA. Widely found in polycarbonate bottles used to hold drinking water as well as the coating in metal cans and plastic food containers, BPA both triggers and stimulates two of the key mechanisms behind the accumulation of body fat: increasing the number of fat cells (hyperplasia), and enhancing their fat storage abilities (fat cell hypertrophy).
BPA and other xenoestrogens found in plastics are known to leach when exposed to high temperatures and caustic cleaners. In fact, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine accidentally discovered that the polycarbonate lab flasks they were using to sterilize the water used in their experiments contained enough BPA to cause hormone sensitive breast cancer cells to proliferate.
And speaking of cancer, research presented in May 2004 in the Journal of Applied Toxicology indicates that xenoestrogens commonly found in many body care and cosmetic products in the form of p-hydroxybenzoic acid esters or parabens have been detected in human breast tumour tissue, indicating that they are definitely absorbed through the skin.
It is nearly impossible to eliminate our exposure to xenoestrogens, but we can take a few simple steps to reduce overexposure to these disrupting chemicals.
If you do use bottled water, change the bottle frequently and never expose it to direct sunlight, heat or freezing temperatures.
Avoid heating food in plastic containers and avoid the use of plastic wraps.
Use paraben-free skin lotions and creams.
Use natural cleaning products and soaps.
Use natural pest control instead of pesticides.
Eat organic meats and produce.
Exercise regularly to dislodge xenoestrogens from the body.
Fukuwatari T, Suzuki Y, Sugimoto E, Shibata K. Elucidation of the toxic mechanism of the plasticizers, phthalic acid esters, putative endocrine disrupters: effects of dietary di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate on the metabolism of tryptophan to niacin in rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2002 Apr;66(4):705-10.
Imbeault, P., Tremblay, A., Simoneau, J.A., & Joanisse, D.R. Weight loss-induced rise in plasma pollutant is associated with reduced skeletal muscle oxidative capacity. American Journal of Physiology, 2000, E282, 574-579.
Masuno, H., et al. “Bisphenol A in combination with insulin can accelerate the conversion of 3T3-L1 fibroblasts to adipocytes.” J lipid Res. 3 (2002): 676-684.
Colborn, T. Our Stolen Future: How We Are Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival. Plume, New York, NY. 1997
Harvey PW, Darbre P. Endocrine disrupters and human health: could oestrogenic chemicals in body care cosmetics adversely affect breast cancer incidence in women? J Appl Toxicol. 2004 May-Jun;24(3):167-76.