Common pesticide may contribute to global obesity crisis, study finds

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In a new study from McMaster University, researchers found a commonly-used pesticide could be partially responsible for the global obesity epidemic.

They found that chlorpyrifos, which is banned for use on foods in Canada but widely sprayed on fruits and vegetables in many other parts of the world, slows down the burning of calories in the brown adipose tissue.

Reducing this burning of calories, a process known as diet-induced thermogenesis, causes the body to store these extra calories, promoting obesity.

In the study, the team examined 34 commonly used pesticides and herbicides in brown fat cells and testing the effects of chlorpyrifos in mice fed high-calorie diets.

The team says lifestyle changes around diet and exercise rarely lead to sustained weight loss. Part of the problem may be this intrinsic dialing back of the metabolic furnace by chlorpyrifos.

The team says chlorpyrifos would only need to inhibit energy use in brown fat by 40 calories every day to trigger obesity in adults, which would translate to an extra five lbs of weight gain per year.

While several environmental toxins including chlorpyrifos have been linked to rising obesity rates in both humans and animals, most of these studies have attributed the weight gain to increases in food intake and not the burning of calories.

While the use of chlorpyrifos on foods is banned in Canada, imported produce may still be treated with it.

The team says although the findings have yet to be confirmed in humans, an important consideration, is that whenever possible consume fruits and vegetables from local Canadian sources and if consuming imported produce, make sure it is thoroughly washed.

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The study is published in Nature Communications. One author of the study is Gregory Steinberg.

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