Obesity and Environment

Research on obesity and the environment investigates the impact of environmental factors on the development and prevalence of obesity. These factors can include aspects of the physical environment, such as access to healthy food options and opportunities for physical activity, as well as social and cultural factors that influence eating habits and sedentary behaviours. Understanding the relationship between obesity and the environment is crucial for developing effective interventions and policies to address the obesity epidemic. Here are summaries of some studies on obesity and chemical environmental factors:

Grun and Blumberg (2006) discuss the concept of “obesogens,” which are chemicals that can disrupt endocrine signaling and potentially contribute to the development of obesity. They focus on organotins, a class of chemicals found in various environmental sources, and their effects on nuclear receptor signaling pathways involved in adipogenesis and metabolism.

Lim et al. (2009) investigated the impact of chronic exposure to the herbicide atrazine on mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin resistance. The study found that atrazine exposure in mice led to impaired mitochondrial function and insulin resistance, which are key factors associated with obesity and metabolic disorders.

Heindel and Blumberg (2019) provide an overview of environmental obesogens and the mechanisms by which they may contribute to obesity. They discuss controversial aspects of this field, including challenges in studying obesogens and the need for further research to establish causal relationships and identify specific chemicals that act as obesogens.

This study by Galloway et al. (2010) examined the association between daily bisphenol A (BPA) exposure and sex hormone concentrations in adults. The results suggested that higher BPA exposure was associated with altered hormone levels, providing insights into the potential endocrine-disrupting effects of BPA.

Ferguson et al. (2012) examined the relationship between urinary phthalate metabolites, oxidative stress markers, and inflammatory markers in a representative sample of the U.S. population. The study revealed associations between certain phthalate metabolites and markers of oxidative stress and inflammation, suggesting potential links between phthalate exposure and metabolic dysfunction.

Cardenas et al. (2017) investigated the association between plasma concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and glycemic indicators and diabetes incidence in high-risk adults. The study found positive associations between certain PFAS compounds and markers of glucose metabolism, highlighting the potential metabolic effects of PFAS exposure.

These studies contribute to the growing body of evidence regarding the potential effects of chemical obesogens on hormone regulation, adipogenesis, oxidative stress, inflammation, and metabolic dysfunction. They shed light on the potential mechanisms through which these chemical obesogens may contribute to obesity and related health outcomes. However, it’s important to note that the field of obesogens is still evolving, and ongoing research is needed to better understand the mechanisms and effects of these chemicals on obesity. Additionally, individual susceptibility to obesogens may vary, and the overall contribution of chemical exposures to the obesity epidemic is likely multifactorial, involving complex interactions with genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors.


  1. Grun F, Blumberg B. Environmental obesogens: Organotins and endocrine disruption via nuclear receptor signaling. Endocrinology. 2006;147(6 Suppl):S50-S55. doi:10.1210/en.2005-1129.
  2. Lim S, Ahn SY, Song IC, et al. Chronic exposure to the herbicide, atrazine, causes mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin resistance. PLoS ONE. 2009;4(4):e5186. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005186.
  3. Heindel JJ, Blumberg B. Environmental obesogens: Mechanisms and controversies. Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology. 2019;59:89-106. doi:10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010818-021437.
  4. Galloway T, Cipelli R, Guralnik J, et al. Daily bisphenol A excretion and associations with sex hormone concentrations:      Results from the InCHIANTI adult population study. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2010;118(11):1603-1608. doi:10.1289/ehp.1002367.
  5. Ferguson KK, Loch-Caruso R, Meeker JD. Exploration of oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in relation to urinary phthalate metabolites: NHANES 1999-2006. Environmental Science & Technology. 2012;46(1):477-485. doi:10.1021/es203595a.
  6. Cardenas A, Gold DR, Hauser R, et al. Plasma concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances at baseline and associations with glycemic indicators and diabetes incidence among high-risk adults in the Diabetes Prevention Program Trial. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2017;125(10):107001. doi:10.1289/EHP1610.