First Lady, Michelle Obama has been in the news a lot for her Let’s Move initiative to tackle childhood obesity. This week she released the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President which is an action plan for tackling the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.
I was really happy to see that the report goes beyond recommendations for individual behavior change and addresses many root causes and systemic changes needed, including researching chemicals that may promote weight gain and obesity. These chemicals are called obesogens and they are found in everyday products like plastics and nonstick cookware.
The report notes that ”such chemicals may promote obesity by increasing the number of fat cells, changing the amount of calories burned at rest, altering energy balance, and altering the body’s mechanisms for appetite and satiety Fetal and infant exposure to such chemicals may result in more weight gain per food consumed and also possibly less weight loss per amount of energy expended. The health effects of these chemicals during fetal and infant development may persist throughout life, long after the exposures occur.”
The recommendations from the report don’t amount to much, basically a nod in the direction of more research into these chemicals, but the inclusion of chemical exposures is a real step in the right direction.
For more on the topic you could check out the Newsweek article Born to Be Big: Early Exposure to Common Chemicals May be Programming Kids to be Fat.