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Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Thu Sep 30, 2021 3:45 pm
by theanimal
I've really enjoyed this series of posts. 2 anonymous (?) writers have taken a dive into obesity to examine what is the cause behind it and if the typical theories hold up to scrutiny. So far they have eliminated dietary and demographic factors and attribute the rise in obesity to environmental contaminants, specifically PFAS and lithium. I've found their arguments to be very compelling and sound.

Here is a link to the latest post in the series. I recommend starting from the beginning, but this post has a link to all previous posts at the top.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Thu Sep 30, 2021 7:48 pm
by Lemur
Yeah this really stood out to me:
Pew says calorie intake in the US increased from 2,025 calories per day in 1970 to about 2,481 calories per day in 2010. The USDA Economic Research Service estimates that calorie intake in the US increased from 2,016 calories per day in 1970 to about 2,390 calories per day in 2014. Neither of these are jaw-dropping increases.
Gotta say I really disagree here. This is absolutely jaw-dropping. An average increase in 374 calories a day amounts to an extra 136,510 calories a year or 39 pounds a year! Even if you burned 75% of that through your normal lipostat of ramping up NEAT, you would still see an accumulation of roughly 9.75 lbs a year which adds up to a lot over time.

I appreciate the Author's perspective and research here (especially the point on environmental contaminants and gut microbiome) but having read the whole thing, I found quite a lot of contradictions ... ultimately I don't feel the brain reward-system is appreciated enough. The author tends to cherry pick a few of Stephen's statements in The Hungry Brain - a book that I've read in full twice. A sudden increase in the 80s? Odd where the author shows 2 graphs that show fat intake is decreasing and carbohydrate decreasing. Umm...not possible. One of them would've to give. The author also underestimates and underappreciates greatly the effects of highly palatable food and our sedentary lifestyles. For the latter, we didn't use to sit 8 plus hours a day. Its why some of us have to force walking in our daily lives just to get the movement in.

As for the former, an example of food palatability ...

There are 149 calories in 1 bag (30 g) of Doritos Cool Original (30g). There are 453.592 grams in a pound. This is a multiple of 15.12. So 1lb of Doritos would equal 2,252.88 calories. Compare this to a tomato. There are 22 calories in 1 medium whole tomato weighing 123 grams. This is a multiple of 3.69. So 1lb of tomatoes would equal 81.18 calories. You would have to eat the equivalent of 2,252.88 / 81.18 = 27.75 pounds of tomatoes! to match what you would get from the highly palatable Doritos. Guess what the world now eats more of?

Ultimately, in my humble opinion, this explanation of environmental contaminants being the sole / primary cause of obesity doesn't pass Occam's razor. The simplest explanation is one that we've clear evidence for - that highly processed, calorically dense, highly palatable food, is in more hands then ever through globalization and we eat more of this stuff then ever before. Literally corporate food scientists have studied and tested their products repeatedly to get these foods as highly palatable as possible. Ever eat a bag of Doritos or sour patch kids and can't stop? :lol:

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Thu Sep 30, 2021 9:41 pm
by Ego
It is complex.

The study mentioned the French Paradox. In France the smoking rate actually increased in the last few years to 34.1%. In the US in 1980 the smoking rate was 34%. Today it is near 13%. The nicotine in cigarettes connects with certain receptors in the brain that play a role in regulating the glands that in turn regulate energy balance and food intake.

At the turn of the 20th century we did not have antibiotics. Until recently subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics were used to fatten cattle. In a given year 5 out of 6 Americans are prescribed one full therapeutic course of antibiotics. ... gain-mice/

Our culture has changed so that meal times are no longer fixed as they once were.

There are many factors.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Thu Sep 30, 2021 10:26 pm
by theanimal
It is worth reading the series as a whole as one individual post will not give a good idea of their position.

They have a whole post on the calories in, calories out point. This hypothesis is disputed elsewhere and they are not unique in thinking so either. There are numerous studies where people are overfed or underfed and eventually return to the same baseline after the study period concludes. The authors suggest that this theory may hold a lot of traction still because it allows those who are not obese to claim they have some will power or magic discipline that others lack. Products like Twinkies and coca cola and other sugar laden/highly processed products have been around since the early 20th century. However, obesity rates didn't spike until 1980. Here's the post that goes into it more. ... e-que-cest/

@ego- the authors addressed animal antibiotics in a separate post. It doesn't account for why people at higher altitudes are leaner than those at lower. ... tibiotics/

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 4:03 am
by 7Wannabe5
I always found the regional differences interesting, because I have a great many friends and relatives who have move back and forth and back and forth between California and Colorado and Michigan, and almost all of them have gained and lost significant amounts of weight with that cycle. I also found the note on women tending to be more affluent because they are thinner rather than vice-versa quite amusing because totally true based on the rude commentary of the affluent men I date who would prefer that my brains and personality were enclosed in more svelte packaging*. I was talking to my sister who was a California/Michigan cycler about being surprised at success during my last spree of dating while looking like (IMO) Mrs. Santa Claus, and she said "Yeah, it's not a problem. because you are in Michigan." :lol:

*I am so terrible, I sometimes take advantage of this by suggesting that I might be willing to drop X pounds if they would give up various behaviors I do not like and/or if they are willing to support me in lifestyle where I can spend entire morning at hot yoga studio. Then they just grumble, grumble, grumble...

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 4:08 am
by boomly
Epigenetics play a part, too. Children of famine survivors are more likely to store up fat reserves and become obese.

Starting in the mid 20th century, entire generations of women "starved" themselves by dieting, tricking their genetics to believe famine conditions prevailed. The after-effects of this would have hit around the 80s.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 7:26 am
by Lemur

Yea, I read it in full. And still disagree with the final conclusion. Of course, we know our bodies have a bodyweight set point. It is more known as a settling point these days. Part of it is people revert to habits after being deliberately overfed or underfed. Nothing to do with environmental contaminants IMO. I’m just saying … highly palatable food, that is easy to access, is much more likely to be the primary cause of the obesity epidemic, not contaminants. No fiber in today’s highly processed food - this is a key nutrient that stops overfeeding and helps send signals to the brain to regulate bodyweight. This also supports the gut micro biome which more research is coming out showing how that too plays a role in bodyweight regulation. This is lacking in modern diets. I'd recommend Lyle McDonalds series on bodyweight regulation to understand just how powerful this lipostat mechanism is: ... ing-points .

The contaminants might possibly be one factor in the obesity epidemic (if it has a large effect on the brain / gut micro biome) but it sure isn’t the primary cause like the author postulates. And not conclusive.

From a practical standpoint, the authors recommend going on more of a whole foods diets to avoid food contaminants to reduce bodyweight....while I believe the premise is not conclusive, this is still a healthy stance and the same recommendation that Stephen, Lyle McDonald, among other experts would recommend as well for anyone trying to lose weight anyway. But for the fiber and reduced palatability as a means to support bodyweight regulation.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 9:10 am
by 2Birds1Stone
As someone who struggled with weight my entire life, I am going to side with Lemur here. Food choices and lifestyle habits all the way.

Sure, other factors can contribute to an individuals inability to lose or gain weight, but in the vast majority of individuals it's simply lifestyle choices.

Up until my early 20's I was obese. A slow and deliberate change to diet and exercise allowed for a loss of over 120 pounds. Since losing that initial weight, I've been in a ~30lb range for the past 12 years. Typically losing weight naturally in the warmer months due to increased non exercise activity, and less overconsumption of calories which tends to happen in colder months when more calorie dense food choices (think holiday meals) are abundant. After studying health science in school, and eventually working as a nutritionist and coach for 150+ individuals, I didn't come across a single client who was not grossly underestimating their caloric intake before becoming educated on the matter. After living in Europe for 8 months this past year, it was also observed how much more fat and sugar is added to just about everything in the modern western diet. When we got back to the USA where it's popular to include calorie counts for meals/food items at restaurants, it became mind boggling that most typical entrees at a chain restaurant are 1500-2500 calories per meal. Combine that with the 80+ hours of sitting and staring at a computer followed by a television, followed by a smartphone all day, you have your recipe for an explosion in lifestyle illness and weight issues.

I challenge anyone who says they can't lose weight to stick to a diet of 100% lean protein and fibrous vegetables, while using human power to transport themselves regularly and not lose weight.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 10:36 am
by white belt
I agree with most of the takes in this thread. I’ve been weighing all my food and tracking macronutrients for the past 2 years. It takes all of the mystery out of losing/gaining weight. I find at a restaurant that trying to eat a high protein, relatively low fat diet automatically eliminates ~80% of dishes on the menu as viable because in the USA so many dishes are high fat to increase palatability. I cook most of my own meals so it’s not really an issue anyway.

The typical person vastly underestimates caloric consumption, as demonstrated by all of the metabolic ward studies that show calories in/calories out is indeed a thing (because physics) but with widespread variation between individuals due to NEAT and genetic factors. That doesn’t contradict the fact that certain things like protein and fiber are more satiating than other things like processed sugars.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 11:34 am
by theanimal
I should note that I am not entirely convinced of their conclusion myself. My background beliefs are that diet and exercise are the major influencers and that people can lose weight doing so. I am a highly disciplined person and it has been my thinking normally that those who are overweight, simply lack the control/ aren't doing what they could be doing. However, this series has made me stop and reconsider that. I haven't been able to square the two.

@Lemur- As a minor squabble, I don't find the fiber point convincing. There are cultures throughout the world who have had diets without or with minimal fiber and haven't had obesity issues. My current diet has hardly any fiber (though doesn't contain any highly processed foods) and I am nowhere near overweight, let alone obese. Why am I able to eat a diet that gets 60-70% of its calories from fat and works to keep me lean while others like yourself and whitebelt do the opposite and remain lean as well?

This is one of the reasons I find this environmental contaminant theory intriguing. So far, it appears to be applicable world wide, not just to individual countries and not constrained to a specific diet.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 11:45 am
by Lemur
Not a hill I want to die on but this circles right back … fiber or no fiber, what you’re experiencing is that your habits constitute your average caloric intake. Fiber is merely one tool in the shed to regulate the lipostat - I should’ve clarified that. There is not one simple mechanism involved in bodyweight regulation and the brain, but CICO still holds true via physics.

I too have lost a large amount of weight and have kept it off for years. This was not willpower (except for the initial loss) but a change of habits is what leads to the long term changes.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 12:17 pm
by zbigi
2Birds1Stone wrote:
Fri Oct 01, 2021 9:10 am
it became mind boggling that most typical entrees at a chain restaurant are 1500-2500 calories per meal.
WHAT? Really? That's insane.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 12:25 pm
by zbigi
theanimal wrote:
Fri Oct 01, 2021 11:34 am
There are cultures throughout the world who have had diets without or with minimal fiber and haven't had obesity issues.
The "have had" (past tense) is key here. Through the history, most of the common people didn't really get the chance to gorge on whatever food was typical for their diet - on the contrary, oftentimes they had to eat less that they would've preferred. This will magically ensure slimness regardless of the diet. Also, note that being fat (or at least "well nourished") was a sign of nobility or well-paid bureaucrat pretty much regardless of the culture and its diet. And nowadays, we all get to eat like the nobles...

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 1:09 pm
by 2Birds1Stone
zbigi wrote:
Fri Oct 01, 2021 12:17 pm
WHAT? Really? That's insane.
Yes, and sometimes it's something seemingly healthy like a salad.....1000-1300 calories for a normal sized salad at most chain restaurants in the USA is the norm. Most of the "snacks & appetizers" on these menu's are also 600-1200 calories. Add a couple of non-diet sodas, some dessert, and people are consuming 2-3k calories in a sitting very easily, without ordering the double bacon cheeseburger. I've personally had a 5k calorie meal at The Cheesecake Factory that included a 1700 calorie slice of cheesecake for dessert, and it wasn't even that big!

The amount of fat and sugar added to everything here is mind boggling. Take a perfectly healthy fresh vegetable like kale or baby spinach and drench it in sugar/fat dressing add blue cheese crumbles, candied cranberries, some chopped nuts for good measure and you have something that the average palate can consume in this part of the world. When we lived in Portugal you had to seek out unhealthy options on purpose, because the default choices were much less caloric and more filling than food in the USA, this is quickly changing in many parts of the world as fast food and shelf stable pre-packaged meals become the norm.

Most of these foods are also LOADED with sodium which makes people swell up and increases blood pressure. No wonder people feel sluggish and lethargic after most meals out here.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 2:57 pm
by Smashter
Like many of y'all, I've read the series and found it intriguing but not convincing.

One the one hand, like the Animal points out, we've had Twinkies and such for a long time but it wasn't until later that Obesity skyrocketed. On the other hand, as obesity researcher Stephan Guyenet points out:
Obesity has been common among the rich for all of civilization's recorded history, and probably for the same reasons it's common more broadly now. There could be an impact of chemical contaminants but it's neither necessary nor sufficient to explain the obesity epidemic IMO.
The one part of the series I highly recommend everyone read for pure entertainment value is the section on the nutrient sludge diet.

It breaks down a famous experiment where massively overweight people were fed a nutrient shake through a tube and lost tons of weight without feeling hunger. It's really funny writing, and an illuminating story about the limits of nutritional studies.

TLDR the famous experiment is of hilariously bad quality and no conclusions should be drawn from it. Yet the above mentioned Stephan Guyenet spends like 4 pages on it in his book to prove a point about the potential of bland diets for weight loss, taking all the conclusions at face value! :?

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 10:33 pm
by Toska2
The second post that Lemur posted has a quote that kinda hits the nail on the head. The calorie intake has increased. I would venture to say that it happens unequally. Young women starve themselves to be thin and male boomers' mindest of a belly is "my only thing that's bought and paid for".

That means two groups are destroying their metabolic systems.

* I agree with antibiotics. I had several friends gain 40 lbs after an illness that required them.

I also believe that exercise is a barbell situation along with eating as described above. You have theanimal being an absolute animal, I lose weight eating anything less than 3000 calories and then you have the rise of 1980's paperpushers. I know more people that binged watched LOTR or Harry Potter than ran a 5k.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2021 6:28 am
by Saltation
I'm unable to type with certainty but environmental contaminants might create/develop a different metabolic burning baseline but ultimately in my own personal experience with having lost significant weight (greater than 80 lbs) the following holds true in my individual journey:

-Genetics account for shape and figure to an extent.
-Eating habits developed through childhood are used as an excuse for "poor" genetics.
-Eating fewer times per day significantly decreases hunger on a personal level.
-OMAD or intermittent fasting has been very helpful.
-Drinking less alcohol, consuming less butter/cheese/bacon etc. and cutting excess fat off steaks helped shed the last 15 lbs.
-Eating more vegetables is helpful in maintaining diversity of diet and is easier in social functions.
-Using a food scale helps with portion control and moves the scale further.
-Excessive amounts of moderate to vigorous exercise is harmful - in my experience it creates so much hunger that it's offset by excess food consumption.

The science is clear that excessive calorie consumption is always a factor in excess weight. Yes there are multiple compounding factors such as base metabolic rates, hormones etc. but once an individual's independent daily baseline calorie amount is exceeded extra weight will be added. If there is science that actually indicates the opposite I'd really like to read it.

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2021 8:51 pm
by WFJ
Correlation vs causation is at the heart of this study. Contaminants are going to be associated with an advancing society and also associated with mechanized farming and associated with sedentary lifestyle. Without looking at the raw data, I could easily conduct regressions that would find significance between any of these variables. One could also through in CO2 production, Apple I-phone users, Social Media posts, with obesity (any other spurious correlations?).

Re: Obesity-A Result of Environmental Contaminants?

Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2021 3:00 pm
by classical_Liberal
Consider pace of eating and number of times eating in a day.

Taking and hour or two for a long, social dinner meal vs going through the drive thru and eating a meal in your car on the way home in 5 minutes, or constantly "snacking" whenever a tinge of hunger presents itself, instead of having two or three "meals".

These things are highly cultural, and both cultural conditions are correlated to obesity rates.