Could common pesticides be contributing to the global obesity crisis?

Home » Could common pesticides be contributing to the global obesity crisis?

A manmade organphophate, Chlorpyrifos can affect and paralyse the nervous system by interrupting the firing of neurotransmitters, among other things. Though, it’s used on pesticides in the cultivation of fruit and vegetables in some countries, it’s banned for use on foods in Canada in which Chlorpyrifos was the focus of an Ontatio study by McMaster University. It raised the question attributing partial blame for the global obesity epidemic.

“Brown fat is the metabolic furnace in our body, burning calories, unlike normal fat that is used to store them. This generates heat and prevents calories from being deposited on our bodies as normal white fat. We know brown fat is activated during cold and when we eat,” said senior author Gregory Steinberg, professor of medicine and co-director of the Centre for Metabolism, Obesity, and Diabetes Research at McMaster. The study found a slowing down of calorie burning in the brown adipose tissue of mice. Reducing this burning of calories, a process known as diet-induced thermogenesis, causes the body to store these extra calories, promoting obesity.

Scientists made the discovery after studying 34 commonly used pesticides and herbicides in brown fat cells and testing the effects of chlorpyrifos in mice fed high calorie diets.

“Lifestyle changes around diet and exercise rarely lead to sustained weight loss. We think part of the problem may be this intrinsic dialling back of the metabolic furnace by chlorpyrifos.”

Steinberg said chlorpyrifos would only need to inhibit energy use in brown fat by 40 calories every day to trigger obesity in adults, which would translate to an extra 5lbs / 2.2kg of weight gain per year. He said that while several environmental toxins including chlorpyrifos have been linked to rising obesity rates in both humans and animals, most of these studies have attributed weight gain to increases in food intake and not the burning of calories.

A list of Chlorpyrifos-based products both commercially and domestically used for such things as weeds, termites, insect removal was only just banned in 2019. (See page 21-22 of the Australian Pesticides & Vetinary Medicines Authority’s list – Annexure A).

If you think you might be affected, immediate suspension of use in your cleaning products, thorough rinsing of fruit and vegetables and/or switching to organic sources may help reverse any of the effects you are experiencing.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: