Pesticides: Reduce Your Exposure

Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is one way to combat obesity. Unfortunately, pesticides that they come coated with are another battle. The New York Times Well column recently addressed the best ways to reduce if not eliminate exposure.
Some of the suggestions:
—Washing with tap water reduces surface chemicals but not those inside
—Scrubbing with a brush
—A commercial vegetable wash may not be as effective as plain water
—Be aware of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen, a group of particularly doused produce items which includes strawberries, peaches, nectarines, grapes, apples and celery
—Go for the Clean Fifteen, those grown and shipped with little need for pesticides. Avocados, corn, pineapple and cabbage top the list.
—Buy organic.

Latino Toddlers Fatter than Playmates

Data mining has uncovered a disturbing trend: Latino children become fat much earlier than black or white playmates. A full 20% of boys are overweight by age four.

What’s going on here? These kids aren’t shopping, cooking or deciding their menus.

Using national data sets culled from 40,000 children over 12 years, researchers teased the differences from race, sex, and insurance status variables.

Gilbert C. Liu and colleagues reported their findings as The obesity epidemic in children: Latino children are disproportionately affected at younger ages in International Journal of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in March 2015.

In contrast, white and black children reached that high percentage closer to 7 and 9 years of age.

“Moreover, significant proportions of Latino children become overweight before entering grade school, suggesting that grade-school-based obesity prevention is too late for this high-risk population. Our study contributes to a growing body of evidence that indicates an increased risk of overweight in Latino preschoolers, and our study is distinguished by its large body of longitudinal data.”

Other studies point to this disparity: (See references here.)

NHANES: overweight prevalence in Mexican American children estimated to be between 13.1% compared to 8.6% for black and 8.8% for white

 WIC: overweight prevalence in more than 2 million preschoolers: Hispanic is 17.9% compared to 11.7%, for black and 11.4%, for white.

 Fragile Families and Child Well-being: of 2452 children, ages 3 years, nearly 26% of Hispanics were overweight compared to16.2% blacks, 14.8% for whites.

This data suggests, strongly, that school programs to combat obesity may come too late.

Tackling the problem starts with one big question: why so many Hispanics? Early research suggests possible answers:

  • Thrifty genes soak up calories when plentiful
  • Cooking practices
  • Exercise habits
  • Body image

The authors conclude:

 “Further studies should focus on the emergence of further metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors and on developing targeted prevention and intervention strategies in young children, their families, and the communities in which they live.”

Traffic and Tobacco Add Pounds

Pollution—whether from tobacco smoke or car fumes—has been linked to obesity.

Researchers in Southern California asked recently whether children exposed to both would have higher rates of obesity. Crunching data on 3318 children enrolled in the Southern California Children’s Health Study, the researchers assessed road pollution exposure through traffic volume, proximity and meteorology. Tobacco exposure was included through parent questionnaire.

Results:

  • Maternal smoking during pregnancy was linked with BMI growth over 8-year follow-up
  • Second hand smoke exposure was associated with BMI growth
  • Compared to controls—children without exposure— children exposed to both high traffic pollution and second hand smoke increased BMI at a higher rate than either alone.

The authors concluded: “Our findings strengthen emerging evidence that exposure to tobacco smoke and NRP contribute to development of childhood obesity and suggest that combined exposures may have synergistic effects.”

Thus, the battle continues. Read more about the research here in Environmental Health Perspectives: A Longitudinal Cohort Study of Body Mass Index and Childhood Exposure to Secondhand Tobacco Smoke and Air Pollution: The Southern California Children’s Health Study.

Pollution Messes with Metabolism

Air pollution is not good for lungs. Just ask anyone in Beijing where surgical masks are a fashion accessory.

How bad is air pollution? The World Bank reported in 2010 that 16 of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities are in China. Linfen City in Shanxi Province, China, which is known for its coal industry, was the world’s most polluted.

Developed countries are polluted too.

Despite decades of cleanup measures, the American Lung Association State of the Air 2012 revealed that nearly half the population of the United States still suffers pollution levels that are often dangerous to breathe. The report found that unhealthy air posed a threat to the lives and health of more than 127 million people—roughly 41 percent of the nation. Even cities like Salt Lake City, Utah, and North Pole, Alaska, which sound pristine, are choking with pollution—the first from automobiles and industry and the latter from burning coal and wood for warmth. At times the air quality readings in North Pole are twice as bad as that of Beijing, according to Kim Murphy writing in the Los Angeles Times in 2013.

Air is judged by ozone and particulate matter. Greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are bad for respiratory systems, according to the EPA. But a new slyer villain has emerged: the small bits, called particulate matter (PM).

According to the World Health Organization, PM affects more people than any other pollutant. PMs are a jumble of solids, liquids, and organic and inorganic matter: mostly sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon, mineral dust, and water. The smaller ones at 2.5 µm are most dangerous because they easily invade the lungs.

And as you may have guessed by the recipe, these PM2.5s, which emerge from burning fuels, are linked to asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. People exposed to pollution don’t live as long. The mortality in cities with high levels of pollution exceeds that observed in relatively cleaner cities by 15 to 20 percent.

The link to obesity is new. How could this happen? The idea is that PM contributes to insulin resistance and adipose inflammation. In one experiment, mice exposed to PM2.5 showed insulin resistance and more visceral fat and inflammation among other defects.

In a new study published in Particle and Fibre Toxicology journal, special mice susceptible to Type 2 diabetes were exposed to either ambient PM2.5 or filtered air for 5 to 8 weeks.

Results:

  • O2, Co2, respiratory exchange and thermogenesis were all changed.
  • More insulin resistance
  • More visceral fat
  • More inflammation in spleen and visceral fat
  • Leptin levels increased
  • Gene expression in brown adipose tissue changed.

Air pollution may be adding to our obesity and diabetes numbers. Choking  on this epidemic is not an option.

 

 

 

Great-grandma’s Pesticides Can Make You Fat

Imagine this: your great- grandmother who loved gardening exposed you to harmful chemicals. And you never even met her.

A 2014 study from Washington State University found that when pregnant rodents were exposed to the pesticide methoxychlor, obesity and other abnormalities were passed on to future generations. Though methoxychlor was banned in 2003 due to its ability to disrupt endocrine systems, its effects may haunt future generations.

The research lead by Michael Skinner has also linked “transgenerational epigenetic inheritance” to other toxins such as plastics, fungicides and BPA.

This adds to the alarm bells sounded in this excerpt from Globesity:

“In 2002, researcher Paula Baillie-Hamilton of Scotland published a seminal paper that stated that the current obesity epidemic could not be explained solely by poor diet and inactivity. She wrote: “What has, up to now, been overlooked is that the earth’s environment has changed significantly during the last few decades because of the exponential production and usage of synthetic organic and inorganic chemicals.”[i] She then named many studies in which chemicals spurred weight gain. The list included more familiar ones like phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA) and pesticides but also others not known to many outside of a lab. How was this happening? Baillie-Hamilton thought the chemicals were changing hormones, neurotransmitters, or the sympathetic nervous system. “Many of these chemicals are better known for causing weight loss at high levels of exposure, but much lower concentrations of these same chemicals have powerful weight-promoting actions,” she reported.

More recently, Retha Newbold of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, added to the alarm. Her charge? Exposure to environmental chemicals during development—before birth—may be contributing to the obesity epidemic.[ii] Fetal life is under siege from chemicals. Though adults also suffer, the unborn are extremely fragile. First, the fetus doesn’t have the protective mechanisms which an adult has: fully developed DNA repair tools, a capable immune system, detoxifying enzymes, complete liver metabolism, and a fully functional blood-brain barrier. Chemicals can pass through the placenta. And worse, the fetus has a fast metabolism, which can add to toxicity.[iii] When cells divide rapidly while being exposed to chemicals, things go wrong. Their marching orders are altered. And these changes, including tendency to obesity, may not appear until adulthood. Or even scarier, the damages may show up way down the road, in the cells of future generations. Genes are altered. Yes, that BPA in your water bottle may figure strongly in your great-grandchild’s life. You may be exposing all your future generations to obesity based on your contact with chemicals. Quite a legacy.

Transgenerational harm is also evident in tributyltins (TBT), compounds in the organotin group.  Humans are exposed through contaminated seafood and shellfish, fungicides on crops, and antifungal agents in wood treatments, industrial water systems, and textiles. TBT exposure in mice before birth caused them to gain more fat later in life.[iv] In 2013, scientists at the University of California Irvine found that those pregnant mice that were fed TBT birthed pups with bigger fat cells and more of them. Most disturbingly, the children and grandchildren of these mice inherited the fat changes in spite of never having been exposed to the chemical. TBT alters genes, which sets future generations up for lifelong struggles with weight. [v]”

[i] Baillie-Hamilton PF. “Chemical toxins: a hypothesis to explain the global obesity epidemic.” J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Apr;8(2):185-92. [ii] Newbold, RR. “Impact of environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals on the development of obesity.” Hormones (Athens). 2010 Jul-Sep;9(3):206-17. Review.[iii] Newbold, RR. “Impact of environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals on the development of obesity.” Hormones (Athens). 2010 Jul-Sep;9(3):206-17. Review. [iv] Grün F, Blumberg B. “Environmental obesogens: organotins and endocrine disruption via nuclear receptor signaling.” Endocrinology. 2006 Jun;147(6 Suppl):S50-5. [v] Chamorro-García R et al.  Transgenerational inheritance of increased fat depot size, stem cell reprogramming, and hepatic steatosis elicited by prenatal exposure to the obesogen tributyltin in mice. Environ Health Perspect. 2013 Mar;121(3):359-66. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205701. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Roundup Reshapes the World

Glyphosate, the active chemical in Roundup–the blockbuster Monsanto herbicide used on crops, gardens and lawns– is found in breast milk.

Not a surprise, really. The toxic chemical is liberally dumped on corn, soy and most fields across the planet now that GMO seeds—also made and licensed in perpetuity by Monsanto—ensure survival against Roundup.

How convenient. Genetically modified seeds grow into tough plants, impervious to Roundup’s toxicity. But scrappy weeds are no match for withering blasts of Roundup. More seeds sold, more Roundup withstood. A win-win for Monsanto.

But for the world?

More food, of course, feeds more people which is welcome relief. But all too quickly, the problem has transitioned into obesity and all the chronic disease it ignites. Poor countries such as Egypt where 75% of women are overweight can ill-afford such health costs.

Glyphosate is a known endocrine disruptor. Its ubiquity makes that a problem.

One recent study on male rats showed glyphosate to damage or kill testicular cells at high exposures and to decrease testosterone by 35% at low exposure levels.

Does glyphosate also contribute to globesity?

Maybe. Appetite systems and energy metabolism depend on endocrine systems. Glyphosate is likely to harm in many ways: This review appears in Entropy, April 2103:

“Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology, one of which is to detoxify xenobiotics. Thus, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Here, we show how interference with CYP enzymes acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease…”

For an interesting look into a look at how science intersects with the leviathan forces of profit, read this discussion of research into both GMO seeds and glyphosate, in Food and Chemical Toxicology.

How to undo this? Demand organic food, use natural weed killing methods on lawns, replace lawns with attractive stones or ground cover or march on Washington as a group called Moms across America are doing today as they demand the EPA pay attention to their concerns about Roundup.

 

 

Book Stores and Beaches Do Mix

Thanks to all who attended my pseudo-TED (Truly Enlightening Discourse) talk in Santa Monica on Saturday at Barnes & Noble on 3rd Street Promenade.I know it wasn’t easy given that the awesome SoCal beach was just two blocks away. There are still a few signed copies of Globesity: 10 Things You Didn’t Know Were Making You Fat available at the store (call 310 260 9110 to reserve or order). Hannah, thanks for the deck work. Frank, thanks for the lovely event set-up.

FYI: TED’s mission statement:

“We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other…”

Community of curious souls. I’d be honored to be part of that.

Auto Pollution Fattens Future Generations

Diesel exhaust is a major donor to fine particles of air pollution, better known as PM 2.5. PMs are a jumble of solids, liquids, and organic and inorganic matter: mostly sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon, mineral dust, and water. The smaller ones at 2.5 µm are most dangerous because they easily invade the lungs.

Thick curtains of smog hanging over Asian cities tell of serious health implications for their residents. Indeed, exposure to PM2.5 heightens risk of heart disease and other inflammatory disorders, including obesity, research shows. According to the World Health Organization, PM affects more people than any other pollutant.

The unborn aren’t safe either. Pollutants can be powerfully toxic to growing fetuses, which don’t have these protective mechanisms of an adult: fully developed DNA repair tools, a capable immune system, detoxifying enzymes, complete liver metabolism, and a fully functional blood-brain barrier. Chemicals can pass through the placenta.

Also, the fetus has a fast metabolism, which can add to toxicity. When cells divide rapidly while being exposed to chemicals, things go wrong. And these changes, including tendency to obesity, may not appear until adulthood. Or even scarier, the damages may show up way down the road, in the cells of future generations. Genes are altered.

Look at what researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in the United States found recently when they exposed pregnant female mice to PM 2.5:  in addition to numerous injuries and oxidative stresses, the pups which had been exposed gained more weight by adulthood.

The link to obesity is new. How could this happen? The idea is that PM contributes to insulin resistance and adipose inflammation. In one experiment, mice exposed to PM2.5 showed insulin resistance and more visceral fat and inflammation among other defects.

Thus, the obesogenic effect of cars extends much beyond the toll exacted on exercise.