The obesogen hypothesis proposes that certain chemicals, called obesogens, influence individual susceptibility to obesity by interfering with metabolic systems that regulate appetite, weight gain, and fat development and distribution, and thereby have contributed to the rise in obesity.
In May, the Food and Drug Administration approved tirzepatide—which patients inject under their skin weekly—to treat type 2 diabetes, because in clinical trials it cut hemoglobin A1c levels (a long-term measure of blood sugar) even more than taking insulin. The FDA has not yet approved tirzepatide for weight loss. But that may soon happen.
Roughly 40 percent of U.S. adults have obesity. Another 30 percent have overweight. Extra pounds raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, several cancers, and more. Here’s the latest on what’s driving weight gain and two new medications that may revolutionize its treatment.
“Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals, as well as patients, consider obesity to be a lifestyle disease; that people are just lacking in willpower,” noted Susan Yanovski, co-director of the Office of Obesity Research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) in a video by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Does fast food lead to unhealthy visceral belly fat? Researchers tracked 3,156 young adults for 25 years. The more often they ate at fast food restaurants, the higher their visceral (deep belly) fat, whether or not they had obesity. And those who ate fast food at least three times a week had roughly five times the risk of metabolic-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) compared to those who ate fast food no more than once a month.
With support from the Passport Foundation beginning in 2019, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has sought to investigate the role of metabolic disrupting chemicals (MDCs) in the development of obesity by rigorously assessing the scientific evidence, ascertaining the strength of the evidence regarding the obesogen hypothesis, and developing consensus in the public health community around a research agenda to advance the science in this area.
Since 1980, the U.S. incidence of liver cancer has tripled and the death rate has doubled. “Excess weight, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and diabetes are greatly contributing to higher rates of liver cancer in the U.S.,” says Katherine McGlynn, senior investigator in the metabolic epidemiology branch at the National Cancer Institute.
Why are two out of three adults and one out of three children overweight or obese? One explanation: Extra calories from cheap, convenient, ultra-processed foods have increasingly flooded the food supply.