In our ever-increasing attempt to lose weight—and keep it off—we battle an unyielding array of television, magazine, and billboard ads tempting us with guilty pleasures, empty calories, and inappropriately cheap foods that, among other things, do our thighs no favors. A stroll through a supermarket for just the necessities is no picnic for the dieter either: endcaps and displays bombard us with discounts, deals, and delicious looking chocolate covered anything. But, even if you have rock-solid will power and an ability to resist the temptations of bad-for-you foods, the weight still may not come off. What gives?
Among the growing issues our nation's food supply faces (pink slime, meat glue, antibiotics, high fructose corn syrup—take your pick!), genetically modified foods are one of the biggest hot-button issues. Using technology to alter the cells of plants with genes from other organisms, many genetically modified foods are also technically pesticides—designed to produce their own pesticides as well as resist multiple pesticide applications. And it's not just a small number of crops. GMOs are the crop du jour, present in nearly 80 percent of all processed foods in the US, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The most common crops: corn, soy, canola, and cotton are fed to livestock, processed into a number of food ingredients, and make up a majority of items found in fast-food restaurants, snack foods, frozen foods, breakfast cereal, and of course, cookies, candy, and ice cream.
Certainly, eating a plant that has been altered to kill insects and resist even more applications of pesticides can sound pretty unappetizing. But there's even more reason to resist having a bite: glyphosate, the pesticide most commonly applied to genetically modified crops (marketed by Monsanto as Roundup), is a known endocrine disruptor, which has been connected to our nation's rising rates of obesity.
Endocrine disruptors mimic or alter the body's endocrine system functions. The endocrine system is responsible for a number of important roles including reproductive health and metabolism. Endocrine disruptors have been shown to block signals entering the blood stream, reroute them, or negate them altogether, causing organs to misbehave or fail to execute a function completely. Routine exposure to these chemicals (and they're not just in pesticides, but also plastics, aluminum cans, register receipts, cosmetics and household items) can cause the endocrine system to become highly imbalanced and prone to allow issues like obesity and diabetes to develop.
Research conducted by the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen recently found that a strong correlation does indeed exist between exposure to endocrine disruptors and the rising rates of obesity and obesity-related illness. Reviewing data from some 450 studies, the team found obesity was a factor in virtually every instance where chemicals, like the pesticide Roundup, were present. And making matters worse, the earlier that one is exposed to the chemicals (even in utero), the more at risk their hormonal systems are of becoming incapable of regulating the body's ability to store and regulate fat. They can also trigger us to eat when we're actually not hungry. Really.
The study found that prenatal exposure to the endocrine disruptors may actually cause permanent physiological changes that predispose those individuals to weight gain later in life and the complications commonly associated with obesity like type II diabetes and heart disease.
And more evidence in a recent issue of the journal Endocrine Reviews also connected weight gain and other hormonal disturbances with very low dose exposure to certain endocrine disruptors. In some cases, the study found that low dose exposure was significantly more damaging to the body's hormonal systems than larger dose exposure.
What to do? Avoid processed and packaged food. Eat organic. Eat fresh. Grow your own.
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