Obesogens also known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals are products/chemicals which are known to interfere with the hormones of the body leading to weight gain and obesity. When these chemicals enter the human body they cause significant changes in the hormone levels of the affected person causing Obesity and many other diseases. We are exposed to these products and their effects on a daily basis. Some commonly found Obesogens which affect us are as given below:
Estrogens and Progesterones are known as the Female Sex hormones. They are the key chemicals which differentiate between the male and female of any species. Estrogen levels are always regulated by the body. Whenever there is an abnormal rise in the level of these estrogens in the males and females, many side effects occur. Nowadays, Artificial / Synthetic estrogens are found in many of the foodstuffs available. These chemicals on entering the body cause the same effects as the estrogens in our bodies.
Important Functions of Estrogens:
- Development of adult female physical characters in girls as they grow up
- Maintain the regularity of monthly Menstrual cycles in ladies
- Proper development of the female genital system
- Increase storage of Fats
- Increase bone health
There are many more functions of Estrogens, we have only mentioned a few important ones here.
Risks associated with increased intake of Estrogens
- Increased Blood pressure (Hypertension)
- Breast Cancer
- Polycystic Ovaries
- Low Sperm Count
- Ovarian Cancer
Obesity: Estrogens directly cause changes in the genes of a person making him/her more prone to become obese. Estrogens also make the fat cells in the body store more amount of fat. Exposure to Estrogens in childhood makes a person prone to obesity in adulthood and very small amounts of Estrogens are enough to cause all these changes.
Increased Blood Pressure: Increased levels of Estrogens are associated with raised Blood Pressure.
Polycystic Ovaries: In females excess amounts of Estrogens cause problems with the functioning of the ovaries. This also causes Polycystic Ovarian Disease. In this condition, the ovum [eggs] being formed in the ovaries do not mature fully and so this affects the monthly menstrual cycles making them irregular and is also one of the main causes of female Infertility [inability to become pregnant].
Reduced Sperm Count: When female hormones enter the bodies of men they cause many changes in their bodies. Some of these changes are reduced facial hair, development of breast tissue in males etc. The most severe and worrying side effect is the reduction in Sperm Count in the males. This is a leading cause of Male infertility.
Breast & Ovarian Cancer: In ladies breast development occurs due to the presence of normal estrogen in the body. When there is an excess of this hormone, there is a high chance of developing Cancer of the Breast or Ovaries. Thus, estrogens increase the risk of Breast and Ovarian Cancer.
2. Bisphenol-A [BPA]
Bisphenol –A [BPA] is a synthetic form of Estrogen. BPA is a chemical that has been used in hardened plastics and coating of food & drink cans for more than 40 years. More than 90% of us have BPA in our bodies right now. BPA is known to easily dissolve in the food and hot liquids kept in plastic containers. We get most of it by eating foods that have been stored or packed in containers made with BPA. Very small amounts of BPA are enough to cause harm to our bodies.
Below figure shows us how BPA is a part of some commonly used things. We can also see some of the safer alternatives for those.
3. Phyto-Estrogens in Soya beans
Soya beans are marketed to be a good natural and vegetarian protein source. In fact we see many foods have added soya in them to make them high protein. Breads and milk have added soya and are consumed heavily all across the globe. We also see many people asking for soya flour to be added to the wheat flour available for making rotis/chapatis. This all being true we forget the basic fact that Soya beans have a very high percentage of Phyto-estrogens in them. Thus along with proteins we are also consuming huge quantities of estrogens daily. This daily intake of estrogens is extremely bad for both males as well as females as it causes all the side effects already mentioned above.
Measures to avoid intake of Phytoestrogens from Soya -
We must avoid excess intake of Soya Beans or any products having soya as its content.
- Bread having Soya Flour
- No Added Soya Flour to our regular wheat Atta
- Soya Milk
- Soya Sauce in excess
- Soya based fast foods
- TOFU (Soya Paneer)
- Soya Curd
- Soya Yoghurt
- Soy Burgers
- Baby products having Soya Supplements
DDT is a commonly used insecticide. It is sprayed on plants and crops all over the world. It should be sprayed only in required quantities. Excess quantities of DDT if sprayed sticks to the vegetables and fruits which are taken from such farms. DDT is also a synthetic Estrogen. It should be hence not allowed to enter our stomachs when we eat these fruits and vegetables.
Measures to avoid intake of DDT
Washing and eating Fruits and vegetables. Ideally we must keep all fruits and vegetables in warm water and salt for a minimum of 20 minutes before eating or cooking them. This washes off all the DDT that may have been stuck to the fruits/vegetables.
5. Mercury in water/fish
Mercury in water/fish has the same effects as estrogens found in food. Mercury content is high in contaminated waters and so fish living in these waters have very high levels of mercury in them. When we consume such fish we are also consuming high amounts of mercury.
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