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.
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This work was supported by the Superfund Research Program grant P42ES007381 (J.J.S), DK35914 (B.E.C), and DK56690 (B.E.C). A.L.S. is supported by the USDA AFRI/NIFA post-doctoral fellowship program, grant no. 2012-67012-20658. We would like to thank Albert R. Jones IV, Kalypso Karastergiou, Ian Kleckner, and Tova Meshulam for helpful discussions while preparing the manuscript.
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Amber L. Simmons, Jennifer J. Schlezinger, and Barbara E. Corkey declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Simmons, A.L., Schlezinger, J.J. & Corkey, B.E. What Are We Putting in Our Food That Is Making Us Fat? Food Additives, Contaminants, and Other Putative Contributors to Obesity. Curr Obes Rep 3, 273–285 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-014-0094-y
- Bisphenol A
- Food additives