We gain weight for many reasons–but could exposure to a secret chemical also do harm?
Scientists from the University of Michigan say that mothers exposed to lead could cause their children to become obese later in life, according to their research.
“The data support the obesogen hypothesis that toxicant exposures in the womb contribute to the higher rate of obesity,” says Dana Dolinoy, a John G. Searle Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences. “There are certain chemicals that are considered the hallmarks of the obesity epidemic, and lead has not been not one of them.”
Though previous research made no connection between lead exposure and obesity, that’s no longer the case, according to Dolinoy’s research. In the study, he exposed female mice to small amounts of lead leaked in their drinking water–a scenario that could realistically occur for humans. Then, two weeks later, the females mated and became pregnant. After they gave birth, their offspring were evaluated for any irregularities in their health or weight.
As it turned out, it made a big difference–they often outweighed the offspring whose mothers were not exposed to lead. Furthermore, it seemed to increase their appetite significantly.
“To see that the level I and others have considered very low has such statistical significance in this study is alarming,” says Christopher Faulk, lead author of the study. “There is no minimum safe level for lead. Our research really supports this.”
While lead was first banned in U.S. paint in 1978 and gradually reduced in other household products, recent reports still say traces of lead can be found in the environment. Old buildings or playgrounds can contain traces of lead, for example, sometimes contaminating the soil or ground. Water pipes may also leak uncontrolled amounts of lead into your drinking water.
How to Avoid Lead
As of now, there isn’t any way to make sure you–or your children–are completely protected from lead exposure, but experts say there are ways to minimize your exposure.
“If the source of the lead is in your home it–in pipes, solder, or well equipment–and you can’t afford to remove it, take other precautions,” recommends WebMD.com. “Only use cold water for cooking or drinking–or for making baby formula–because hot water is more likely to contain higher lead levels. If you haven’t used a faucet in the last six hours, flush it out for one to two minutes before drinking or cooking with it.”
In addition, WebMD.com recommends keeping your home clean and washing any toys or bottles regularly to keep lead exposure to a minimum. Avoiding products made overseas can also help, such as toys made in China–toys which may carry hidden amounts of lead.
Readers: Do you think chemicals could cause obesity? Why or why not?
How You Can Get Exposed to Lead in the Environment – WebMD.com
Study: Lead Exposure in Pregnant Mothers May Create Obese Children – ScienceDaily.com
Females Exposed to Lead May Give Birth to Children With Obesity – PLOSOne.org