The Checkup: Do Food Chemicals Make You Fat?

An emerging view of nutrition and weight gain has a word for chemical additives: obesogens.

• What if a dietician told you weight gain or loss isn’t as simple as calories in, calories out? That this old energy-balance model doesn’t cut it in our modern food system? The Atlantic reports on an emerging view in nutrition which looks closely at the role of industrial chemicals—BPA, fungicides, pesticides—in how fat is stored and burned in our bodies. A researcher in California coined the term “obesogen” to describe these substances that crop up in our food supply as a result of how our food is produced and processed. According to this view—and some studies which seem to back it up—these obesogens alter the way our bodies naturally deal with calories, and actually cause us to gain weight, regardless of how much food we actually consume. In one study, animals exposed to the chemicals didn’t eat more or different food than ones that weren’t exposed—but the former group gained more weight than the latter. While researchers in the obesogen camp argue that this outcome (and others like it) points a finger at the chemicals themselves, others are wary to cast blame too soon. Check out debate over here. Super interesting read.

• Have you been following the whole Coke-causes-cancer debate? The makers of Pepsi and Coca-Cola announced on Friday that they’re going to reduce the amount of caramel coloring in their products to comply with a new California law, which states that food products cannot contain more than 29 micrograms of the caramel-coloring chemical 4-methylimidazole (a study on lab rats linked it to cancer). Tests on Coke and Pepsi cans found that they contain between 103 and 153 micrograms. Although the beverage companies maintain that their products are safe, they will be complying with the law, anyway. Read more here.

• A word to the wise: don’t fake a cancer diagnosis to get out of a jail sentence. It won’t work in Philly.


IN THIS SECTION