Purpose of review
There has been a substantial increase in the prevalence of obesity in the last several decades. Recent evidence suggests that endocrine-disrupting chemicals, for example halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons, may cause perturbations in endogenous hormonal regulation and alter other mechanisms involved in weight homeostasis, which may lead to weight gain by increased volume of adipose tissue. Synthetic chemicals derived from industrial processes are suspected to play a contributory role. Yet of the approximately 70 000 documented synthetic chemicals, few have been examined to determine their effects on the endocrine system.
The present study examines prior laboratory, epidemiological and experimental research findings. Data demonstrate migration of endocrine disruptors in the environment and are beginning to catalogue their effects on adiposity. We present postulated relationships between these chemicals, their mechanisms of action, and the obesity epidemic.
Endocrine disruptors may adversely impact human and environmental health by altering the physiological control mechanism. Obesity, which is known to increase medical costs and reduce quality and length of life, may be increasing as a function of endocrine disruptor exposure. This merits concern among scientists and public health officials and warrants additional vigorous research in this area.