What if all the McDonald's Happy Meals
and long nights of watching television weren't the main contributing factors to your child's obesity, and in fact the real reason could very well be “invisible” factors in his or her surroundings?
No, not invisible in terms of a ghost or other spirit. But invisible in a common chemical that you might encounter every single day and just not know it.Chemicals to Blame?
Well, according to researchers from the Children's Environmental Health Center at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, there is indeed a strong link between childhood obesity and exposure to a man-made chemical group. Enough exposure to this group of chemicals known as phthalates
could lead to an increased waist circumference and a higher body mass index (BMI).
These findings, which were recently published in the online journal Environmental Research
, show that while a poor diet can indeed cause obesity, there has been a hidden culprit compounding the effects of unhealthy eating
and a sedative lifestyle.
Phthalates are human-created chemicals that are used most commonly in plastic flooring, wall coverings, food-processing materials, personal care products and medical devices. The chemicals can disrupt the human organism by radiating endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mimic our body's natural hormones. This study marks the very first time that researchers examined the possibility of a link existing between phthalates and childhood obesity. Details of the Study
For the study, 387 New York City children that were either African-American or Hispanic participated by having their urine samples measured for phthalate concentrations. In addition, several physical measurements such as BMI, height, weight and waist circumference were also taken; and again one year later.
So what did the results say? It was revealed that over 97 percent of the study's participants had all come in contact with phthalates, and most of the instances of exposure were from personal care products like perfume, certain hand and body lotions, cosmetics, varnishes, medication and some nutritional supplements. Overall, those children with the highest BMI and waist circumference also had the highest exposure to phthalates, by at least 10 percent more than the next highest group. Where Do We Go From Here?
With the acknowledgement of these chemicals and their contribution to the childhood obesity epidemic
our country currently faces, researchers are emphasizing the importance of reducing the exposure to these chemicals as much as possible.
In 1980, only seven percent of the child population aged six to 11 were considered obese, but recently that number has increased dramatically at an alarming rate. Almost 50 percent of the entire child population between the ages of six and 11 are now obese. Perhaps with a clearer understanding of the entire scope of the problem, such as hidden agents like phthalates, we will finally be able to combat the growing problem of childhood obesity and reverse its effects.