Obesogenic endocrine disruptors and obesity

Myths and truths, Archives of Toxicology, 2017


Obesogenic endocrine disruptors, also known as obesogens, are chemicals potentially involved in weight gain by altering lipid homeostasis and promoting adipogenesis and lipid accumulation. They included compounds to which human population is exposed over daily life such as pesticides/herbicides, industrial and household products, plastics, detergents and personal care products.

The window of life during which the exposure happens could lead to different effects. A critical window is during utero and/or neonatal period in which the obesogens could cause subtle changes in gene expression and tissue organization or blunt other levels of biological organization leading to increased susceptibility to diseases in the adulthood.

“…the exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) during neonatal period resulted in increased body weight.
Interestingly, this efect was specifc for females and did not appear until 4–6 months. In male mice, the exposure to DES was accompanied by an increased number of adipocytes in the gonadal fat pad of mice.” …

… “…the prenatal exposure to DES resulted in childhood obesity at age of 7 and increased risk of adult obesity.”

Some of the reasons for this increased sensitivity include the lack of the protective mechanisms that are available in adult such as DNA repair mechanisms, a competent immune system, detoxifying enzymes, liver metabolism and the blood/brain barrier still not fully functional in the fetus or newborn.

The mechanisms of action of obesogens lay on their ability to increase the number and/or the size of the adipocytes and to alter appetite, satiety and food preferences.

The ability of obesogens to increase fat deposition results in an increased capacity for their own retention due to their lipophilic properties; thus prolonging the exposure and increasing the detrimental metabolic consequences.


  • Obesogenic endocrine disruptors and obesity: myths and truths, Archives of Toxicology, NCBI PubMed PMID: 28975368, 2017 Nov.
  • Image credit Siora Photography.

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