The Strange Way That Soap Can Lead to Obesity

A number of everyday household products contain chemicals that can lead to obesity, a risk factor for a seemingly endless list of health conditions.

A number of everyday household products contain chemicals that can lead to obesity, a risk factor for a seemingly endless list of health conditions.

Soap, nail polish, and plastic products are just some of the items that contain phthalates, the chemicals responsible for giving plastic its bendability. Researchers from the University of Georgia (UGA) found that contact with the chemical can impact the amount of fat stored in the body.

“Phthalate exposure can be closely associated with the rise of different types of disease development,” lead author Lei Yin, MD, PhD, an assistant research scientist in the UGA College of Public Health’s department of environmental health science, said in a news release.

The team began studying the association after previous studies showed phthalates in human fluids, as described in Toxicology in Vitro. So using mouse cells in vitro, the researchers went on to see if a specific phthalate, benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), influenced fat in cells.

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Bisphenol A (BPA) is an environmental endocrine disruptor that is known for playing a role in how fat cells develops. When the mouse models were exposed BPA and BBP, both chemicals caused similar responses; they prompted the cells to accumulate lipid droplets (oils and fats). The cell droplets were larger in the BBP-treated cells which indicate that the chemical has an intricate part in obesity.

But why does this specific phthalate affect body fat?

“It could be that some chemicals at a very low dose and over a long period time, which is known as chronic exposure, can cause more harmful diseases or effects,” Yin continued.

The takeaway here is that diet and exercise, and even health conditions, are not the only components that contribute to obesity; environmental factors shouldn’t be ignored.

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