A new study finds that environmental chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – found in fast-food wrappers, non-stick pots and pans, textile coatings, and even paper – cause another worrisome and unwanted side-effect. Previously linked to hormone dysregulation, immune dysfunction, high cholesterol, and even cancer, PFAS exposure is now also linked to weight gain. Specifically, researchers found that people with the highest levels of PFAS in their bloodstream had the hardest time keeping weight off after dieting.
High PFAS levels are associated with weight gain
For the study, over 600 people followed a heart-healthy diet for six months, leading to an average weight loss of 14 pounds. Over the next 18 months, participants gained back an average of 6 pounds. All the while, researchers tracked PFAS concentrations in people’s bloodstreams. They noticed that while PFAS levels didn’t affect how much weight people lost originally, they did affect how much participants gained back. In fact, people who gained the most weight back possessed the highest PFAS levels. Furthermore, the link appeared to be gender-based – women with the highest PFAS blood levels regained 2.7 to 4.9 pounds more than women with the lowest PFAS levels. It’s possible that PFAS obstruct estrogen metabolism, which is why these results are notably evident in women.
High PFAS levels are also linked to lower resting metabolic rates
Interestingly, the study also concluded that people with the highest PFAS levels possessed lower resting metabolic rates – the baseline rate of caloric burn doing sedentary, daily activities. “People with lower metabolic rates are more likely to accumulate a lot of fat in the body, so this may be a very important part of the problem,” says senior author Qi Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Minimize your risk of environmental toxicity to manage your weight
While Sun argues that it’s “basically impossible” for Americans to avoid PFAS entirely – after all, they’re found in drinking water, contaminated seafood, and packaging products, to name a few – there are steps you can take to minimize your exposure and risk of PFAS health hazards, including the more immediate side-effect of weight gain.
To limit your exposure to PFAS as much as possible:
- Purchase PFAS-free pots and pans. Look for ceramic non-stick options, though keep in mind they should not be heated above 450 degrees. As well, best if they’re not manufactured in Latin American or Asian countries where regulations are more lax for cadmium and lead.
- Mind your wrappers. This can be trickier if you are eating on-the-go and happen to partake in fast-food. Those wrappers, used because they repel oil and water, are loaded with PFAS, so best to bypass them entirely. Plus, in most cases, the actual food in the wrappers isn’t exactly a boon for your belly either. Microwave popcorn bags also contain PFAS.
- Ensure your water is PFAS-free. Purchase a water filter for your home/office faucet with a label on it that notes PFAS-free.
Final takeaway: These environmental chemicals are now linked to weight gain – which is actually a side effect of toxicity in and of itself. One of your bodily defenses is to wrap up toxins in visceral fat to keep it away from your organs – which contributes to weight gain. So even if you’re not trying to lose weight, you still want to keep PFAS out of your system.
To help rid your body of built-up toxins like PFAS naturally, forget about juice cleanses. Think autophagy – a process where your body cleans out damaged cells and toxins to help regenerate newer, healthier cells. While your body does this, to some degree, naturally, there are things you can do to amp up the process. Learn more about how to help your body detox with autophagy.