With obesity amongst children and adults at an all time high in the western world scientists are now looking beyond the obvious causes such as overeating and lack of exercise to other factors. This new report claims that pesticides such as hexachlorobenzene (HCB) are being found in the umbilical cords of babies and those with the highest concentrations are more likely to become obese. The chemicals act as obesogens. HCB has now been banned but is still present in the environment and so still getting into the food chain. At this time it is not known if other similar chemicals have the same effect.
Pollution can make children fat, startling new research shows. A groundbreaking Spanish study indicates that exposure to a range of common chemicals before birth sets up a baby to grow up stout, thus helping to drive the worldwide obesity epidemic.
The results of the study, just published – the first to link chemical contamination in the womb with one of the developing world's greatest and fastest-growing health crises – carry huge potential implications for public policy around the globe. They undermine recent strictures from the Conservative leader, David Cameron, that blame solely the obese for their own condition.
A quarter of all British adults and a fifth of children are obese – four times as many as 30 years ago. And so are at least 300 million people worldwide. The main explanation is that they are consuming more calories than they burn. But there is growing evidence that diet and lack of exercise, though critical, cannot alone explain the rapid growth of the epidemic.
It has long been known that genetics give people different metabolisms, making some gain weight more easily than others. But the new study by scientists at Barcelona's Municipal Institute of Medical Research suggests that pollution may similarly predispose people to get fat.