Unsuspected Causes of Obesity

Dr. Adrienne Sprouse

Dr. Adrienne Sprouse

The Obesity Epidemic

One-third of all Americans are overweight or obese, including adults and children. In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children ages 6-10 and tripled in adolescents ages 11-19. This rapid increase in obesity cannot be attributed to genetics. Along with the rise in obesity, we also see an increase in seven other chronic illnesses: lung disease, heart disease, hypertension, mental illness, cancer, diabetes, and stroke. 50% of all Americans have at least one of these chronic illnesses.

Obesity is not simply a matter of too many calories consumed versus not enough calories burned. That’s why restricting calories and increasing exercise have not been sufficient to curb obesity. Two unsuspected causes of obesity are exposure to environmental chemicals and food allergies. 

Environmental Chemicals as a Cause of Obesity

Animal studies investigating obesity have shown striking results. In mouse experiments, the mouse fed a diet that contained either a pesticide or DES (diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic chemical) became obese eating the same number of calories as a slender mouse fed a diet without either of these chemicals. It might not matter so much if we’re just considering mice, but when we consider the human obesity epidemic, it has been well documented that certain environmental chemicals have been noted to cause obesity.

POPs (persistent organic pollutants-chemicals that remain long after their initial application) include dioxins (herbicides), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls used in plastics), organochlorine pesticides (including DDT) and PBDEs (polybrominated diethyl ethers) which are used as fire retardants on mattresses.

Other chemicals that have a shorter half life have also been known to cause obesity. Phthalates are chemicals found in plastics. Bisphenol A is found in heat- sensitive paper including credit card receipts and lottery tickets. Organophosphates are used as pesticides. Heavy metals, medications, and air pollution have also been noted to cause obesity. These environmental chemicals are collectively called obesogens.

The Center for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has documented that Americans carry more than 200 toxic chemicals in their bodies. We get these chemicals through the foods we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, through umbilical cord blood from the mother to the fetus, and by the implantation of medical devices.

Food Allergy and Food Addiction as a Cause of Obesity

Food addiction can follow food allergy. Here’s an example:

Ben eats eggs every morning for breakfast, sometimes eats a muffin (made with eggs) for his morning break, and then eats pasta (made with egg noodles) for dinner. Unknowingly, he is eating eggs 3 times a day. He has had headaches, asthma, or some other worrisome symptom in the past, or is overweight. He does not suspect that he is allergic or addicted to eggs, but on a few occasions when he was not been able to eat his typical egg-laden diet, his symptoms initially got worse (withdrawal). Eating eggs made the symptoms better (addiction). He never suspected that eggs might be the problem. Eating a food more often than once every four days can cause cyclic food allergies that lead to food addiction and can trigger a wide variety of symptoms, including overweight/obesity.

A Rotary Diversified Diet has been used by some to identify their food allergies. The specifics of this diet are described in detail in several books:

-Natalie Golos and Frances Golos Golbitz. If This is Tuesday, It Must Be Chicken. I think this book was first published by the Human Ecology Research Foundation around 1983 then later by Keats publishing in 2000. You can find it on Amazon.com or Alibris.com.

-Marshall Mandell, M. D. and Fran Gare Mandell, M. S. It’s Not Your Fault You’re Fat. I think this book was first published by Plume around 1984 then later by Harper Collins in1988. You can find it on Amazon.com or Alibris.com.

-Theron G. Randolph, M. D. and Ralph W. Moss, Ph D. Alternative Approach to Allergies: The New Field of Clinical Ecology Unravels the Environmental Causes of Mental and Physical Illness. 1980 New York, Harper and Row.

-Marshall Mandell, M. D. Five Day Allergy Relief System.1988 New York, Harper Collins. 

Briefly, this is how a Rotary Diversified Diet works:

To determine your food allergies, a single organic food is eaten at each meal on a four- or 5-day schedule. Food families are separated by one day. The food is eaten plain without any condiments. Only filtered water is used as a beverage. Special cooking instructions are recommended. A diary is kept to determine problematic foods. Symptom-causing foods are eliminated for at least one month or allergy shots may be developed. Non-reactive foods are incorporated into the diet once every four or five days. Before starting this diet or any other diet, consult your physician.

It may be challenging for you to determine your own food allergies. An Environmental Medicine physician is your best choice for determining your environmental chemical exposures as well as your food allergies. A directory for Environmental Physicians may be found at the website for the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (www.aaem.com).

Identifying your chemical load and food allergies can mean the difference between years of unsuccessful dieting and at last achieving and maintaining your normal weight.

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