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What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain?

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain – Stay Away From Obesogens

The most common cause of weight gain is excessive consumption of unhealthy food and beverages. However, certain chemicals cause weight gain as well. These chemicals are known as obesogens. Obesogens have been shown to increase the number of fat cells and upregulate fat storage in existing cells. Obesogens also cause weight gain by interfering with the body’s metabolism, appetite regulation, and microbiome, leading to an increase in adipose tissue.1

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain – BPA

One of the most well-studied obesogens is bisphenol-A (BPA). The most common sources of BPA exposure is through food and beverage containers. Canned foods and beverages often have a plastic lining that contains BPA to prevent corrosion and extend shelf life. This includes items like canned soups, vegetables, fruits, and soda cans. Additionally, plastic food storage containers, water bottles, and sippy cups often contain BPA.

BPA can also be found in products specifically designed for infants and children. This includes baby bottles, pacifiers, teething rings, and even some toys. Since children are more susceptible to the harmful effects of BPA, it is important to be mindful of the products they come into contact with.

The paper used in cash registers, ATM receipts, and other thermal papers often contain BPA. This is because BPA is used to create a shiny coating on the paper that reacts with heat to produce an image. Avoid touching receipts, as BPA is easily absorbed through the skin.2

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain - BPA

Are Products Marked BPA-Free Any Better?

Due to its health risks, BPA has been replaced by other chemicals known as BPA substitutes. While these substitutes may be marketed as a safer alternative to BPA, they share similar health dangers. Studies have shown that BPA substitutes also act as endocrine disruptors. One study found that some BPA substitutes had even higher levels of estrogenic activity than BPA itself. If a product is marked as BPA-free, that does not necessarily mean it is safe.3

How Does BPA Cause Weight Gain?

BPA has been linked to metabolic disorders and increased fat storage in animal studies. Additionally, it has been shown to impact the production of leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite and metabolism.

One of the ways BPA affects leptin is by mimicking the hormone estrogen. BPA has been found to bind to and activate estrogen receptors, causing changes in gene expression and hormone signaling pathways. This results in an increase in fat cell production, leading to higher levels of leptin being released into the bloodstream.

Additionally, BPA has been shown to interfere with the communication between leptin and the brain. This disruption leads to a decrease in sensitivity to leptin, resulting in a condition known as leptin resistance. When this happens, the brain does not receive signals from leptin properly, causing it to continue sending hunger signals even when fat stores are sufficient.4

Leptin resistance has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, and other metabolic disorders. It also contributes to chronic inflammation in the body, which is a risk factor for nearly all degenerative diseases.5

Read more about inflammation and weight gain.

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain – Phthalates

Phthalates are another category of obesogens. One of the most common uses of phthalates is in plastics. They are used to make products such as toys, food containers, and packaging materials more flexible and durable. In fact, phthalates often make up 50% of the weight of some types of plastics. However, not all plastic products contain phthalates. The products that contain the highest amount of phthalates include PVC (#3), #6, and #7 plastics.6

Another major use of phthalates is in personal care and cosmetic products. They are used to make fragrances last longer, as well as to enhance the texture and absorption of lotions, creams, and other skincare products. Phthalates can be found in nail polish, hair spray, and deodorants.

Phthalates are also commonly used in household products such as cleaning agents, air fresheners, and detergents. They are added to these products to improve their cleaning abilities and make them more effective.

Aside from consumer products, phthalates are also used in industrial applications such as adhesives, paints, and coatings. They help improve the flexibility and durability of these materials, making them more suitable for various uses.

Recent studies have shown that phthalates are found in high levels in fast food, making it another reason to eat a healthier diet. To keep up with the demand for quick service, many fast food chains rely on cheap and processed ingredients, which are often packaged in phthalate-containing materials.7

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain - Phthalates

How Do Phthalates Cause Weight Gain?

Phthalates are linked to insulin resistance and increased abdominal fat in human studies. They have also been shown to disrupt the body’s endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalances and weight gain.

Phthalates mimic estrogen and disrupt the body’s hormonal balance. This disruption leads to changes in metabolism, appetite regulation, and fat storage, all of which can contribute to weight gain. Phthalates have been linked to systemic inflammation, which contributes to weight gain. 

Phthalates have been shown to disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut, which impacts digestion and nutrient absorption. Changes in the gut microbiome composition have been linked to obesity and metabolic disorders.

Studies also suggest that phthalates interfere with thyroid hormone production and function, leading to metabolic disruptions and subsequent weight gain.8

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain – Pesticides

Pesticides, commonly found in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, have been linked to weight gain. These chemicals disrupt the endocrine system and cause inflammation in the body, leading to metabolic disorders and weight gain, specifically in women.9

Organophosphates are a common class of pesticides used on fruits and vegetables such as apples, strawberries, peaches, and spinach. Glyphosate, marketed under the name Roundup, is the most commonly used organophosphate. Studies have shown that exposure to organophosphates leads to weight gain and metabolic disorders.10

Read more about the toxic effects of glyphosate.

Pyrethroids are pesticides commonly used in insect repellents, pet flea products, and lawn sprays. Studies have shown that exposure to pyrethroids increases body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.11

Carbamates are found in household insecticides and fertilizers, exposure to carbamates has been linked to weight gain and obesity.12

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain – Nonylphenol

Nonylphenol is a chemical compound commonly used in the production of plastics, detergents, and other industrial products. It belongs to a group of chemicals known as alkylphenols, which are widely used in manufacturing processes due to their surfactant properties.

Nonylphenol has been shown to have estrogenic effects in the body, leading to weight gain. Additionally, nonylphenol has been linked to disrupting the function of the thyroid gland, which is responsible for regulating metabolism.13

To reduce exposure to nonylphenol, it is important to be aware of products that contain this chemical. These include plastics, cleaning products, and certain personal care items. Choosing organic and natural alternatives can help avoid exposure to nonylphenol and other harmful chemicals.

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain – Parabens

Parabens are a type of chemical commonly used in cosmetic and personal care products as preservatives. They are also found in food, pharmaceuticals, and other household items. Parabens have been linked to weight gain due to their ability to disrupt hormone balance in the body. Like other obesogens, parabens have been found to mimic estrogen.14

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain – PFAS

Some other obesogenic chemicals include perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are used in non-stick cookware and food packaging, and flame retardants found in furniture and electronics. These chemicals have been linked to weight gain and metabolic disorders in animal studies.

In a recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers from Harvard University conducted an experiment with 621 individuals who were either overweight or obese. The subjects were placed on various heart-healthy diets and their blood was tested for levels of PFAS.

Interestingly, the results showed that those who had higher levels of PFAS in their blood were more likely to regain weight after the study. In fact, they regained an average of 3-5 pounds more than those with lower PFAS levels. Surprisingly, this effect was more pronounced in women compared to men.15

Read more about the toxic effects of PFAS.

How Long Does It Take For Chemicals To Cause Weight Gain?

The effects of obesogenic chemicals are generally not noticeable immediately, but increase with repeated exposure. While it may be difficult to completely avoid exposure to these chemicals in our modern world, there are steps we can take to minimize our contact with them. This includes choosing organic produce whenever possible, using glass or stainless steel containers for food and beverages, and avoiding personal care products with phthalates and other harmful chemicals.

What Chemicals Cause Weight Gain – Stay Away From Obesogens

Exposure to obesogenic chemicals causes weight gain. These chemicals are found in everyday products. By being aware of these chemicals and taking steps to reduce our exposure, we can limit the effect they have on our health.

Read more about the hormones that govern fat loss.


1 Amato AA, Wheeler HB, Blumberg B. Obesity and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Endocr Connect. 2021 Feb;10(2):R87-R105. doi: 10.1530/EC-20-0578. PMID: 33449914; PMCID: PMC7983487.

2 BPA in common products | Facts about BPA. (2024, March 28). Facts About BPA.

3 Moon MK. Concern about the Safety of Bisphenol A Substitutes. Diabetes Metab J. 2019 Feb;43(1):46-48. doi: 10.4093/dmj.2019.0027. PMID: 30793551; PMCID: PMC6387873.

4 Naomi R, Yazid MD, Bahari H, Keong YY, Rajandram R, Embong H, Teoh SH, Halim S, Othman F. Bisphenol A (BPA) Leading to Obesity and Cardiovascular Complications: A Compilation of Current In Vivo Study. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Mar 9;23(6):2969. doi: 10.3390/ijms23062969. PMID: 35328389; PMCID: PMC8949383.

5 Gruzdeva O, Borodkina D, Uchasova E, Dyleva Y, Barbarash O. Leptin resistance: underlying mechanisms and diagnosis. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2019 Jan 25;12:191-198. doi: 10.2147/DMSO.S182406. PMID: 30774404; PMCID: PMC6354688.

6 Barhum, L. (2022, February 2). Are phthalates in plastic safe? Verywell Health.

7 Edwards L, McCray NL, VanNoy, BN, et al. Phthalate and novel plasticizer concentrations in food items from U.S. fast food chains: a preliminary analysis. J Expo Sci Environ Epid. 2021. doi:10.1038/s41370-021-00392-8

8 Wang Y, Qian H. Phthalates and Their Impacts on Human Health. Healthcare (Basel). 2021 May 18;9(5):603. doi: 10.3390/healthcare9050603. PMID: 34069956; PMCID: PMC8157593.

9 Noppakun K, Juntarawijit C. Association between pesticide exposure and obesity: A cross-sectional study of 20,295 farmers in Thailand. F1000Res. 2021 Jun 4;10:445. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.53261.3. PMID: 35646323; PMCID: PMC9127373.

10 Hoffman K, Stapleton HM, Lorenzo A, Butt CM, Adair L, Herring AH, Daniels JL. Prenatal exposure to organophosphates and associations with birthweight and gestational length. Environ Int. 2018 Jul;116:248-254. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2018.04.016. Epub 2018 Apr 24. PMID: 29698901; PMCID: PMC5971006.

11 Zuo L, Chen L, Chen X, Liu M, Chen H, Hao G. Pyrethroids exposure induces obesity and cardiometabolic diseases in a sex-different manner. Chemosphere. 2022 Mar;291(Pt 2):132935. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.132935. Epub 2021 Nov 16. PMID: 34798107.

12 Silberman J, Taylor A. Carbamate Toxicity. [Updated 2023 May 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from:

13 Hao CJ, Cheng XJ, Xia HF, Ma X. The endocrine disruptor 4-nonylphenol promotes adipocyte differentiation and induces obesity in mice. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2012;30(2):382-94. doi: 10.1159/000339032. Epub 2012 Jul 3. PMID: 22739433.

14 Xu X, Wu H, Terry PD, Zhao L, Chen J. Impact of Paraben Exposure on Adiposity-Related Measures: An Updated Literature Review of Population-Based Studies. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Dec 5;19(23):16268. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192316268. PMID: 36498342; PMCID: PMC9740922.

15 Liu G, Dhana K, Furtado JD, Rood J, Zong G, Liang L, et al. (2018) Perfluoroalkyl substances and changes in body weight and resting metabolic rate in response to weight-loss diets: A prospective study. PLoS Med 15(2): e1002502.

Disclaimer: All rights reserved. Information provided is for general purposes and not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your healthcare professional for medical concerns. About Dr. Pompa

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