Obesity Treatment (CM Apovian, Section Editor)

Current Obesity Reports

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 273-285

First online:

What Are We Putting in Our Food That Is Making Us Fat? Food Additives, Contaminants, and Other Putative Contributors to Obesity

  • Amber L. SimmonsAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Boston University Medical Center
  • , Jennifer J. SchlezingerAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health
  • , Barbara E. CorkeyAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Boston University Medical Center Email author 

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The “chemical obesogen” hypothesis conjectures that synthetic, environmental contaminants are contributing to the global epidemic of obesity. In fact, intentional food additives (e.g., artificial sweeteners and colors, emulsifiers) and unintentional compounds (e.g., bisphenol A, pesticides) are largely unstudied in regard to their effects on overall metabolic homeostasis. With that said, many of these contaminants have been found to dysregulate endocrine function, insulin signaling, and/or adipocyte function. Although momentum for the chemical obesogen hypothesis is growing, supportive, evidence-based research is lacking. In order to identify noxious synthetic compounds in the environment out of the thousands of chemicals that are currently in use, tools and models from toxicology should be adopted (e.g., functional high throughput screening methods, zebrafish-based assays). Finally, mechanistic insight into obesogen-induced effects will be helpful in elucidating their role in the obesity epidemic as well as preventing and reversing their effects.


Obesity BPA Bisphenol A Food additives Preservatives Pesticides Plastics Pollutants Contaminants