Excess body fat is more than just hazardous to your health by increasing the risk of common health ailments such as heart disease and diabetes. The fat stores may actually be sequestering other harmful substances as well. A new study has found persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the blood streams of people who have recently lost weight – substances that had been stored in their body fat.
Body Fat Can Accumulate Harmful Chemicals
Persistent organic pollutants are compounds created in industrial processes and can be transported by wind and water. POP’s work their way into the food chain by accumulating in the body fat of living organisms and becoming more concentrated, a process known as “biomagnifications”. The chemicals have been linked to a wide variety of illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia, and heart disease.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the “Dirty Dozen” POP compounds include aldrin and dieldrin, chlordane, DDT, endrine, mirex, heptachlor, and toxaphene which are all insecticides used primarily on agricultural crops. Also included are hexachlorobenzene (fungicide), PCB’s (industrial product), and dioxins and furans (produced during combustion).
The most recent study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, compared the levels of seven common persistent organic pollutants in 1,099 adults who participated in a national health study in 1999-2002. Those who had experienced more weight loss, particularly over a period of 10 years or more, had significantly higher levels of POP in their blood than those who lost less weight or who had sustained weight loss for less than one year.
Researchers stress that the findings are far from clear, but may help explain why some studies have suggested, though not proven, that the risk of heart disease, dementia, or death may sometimes increase after weight loss.
The findings should not deter those who are overweight or obese from taking efforts to improve their health. It should, however, encourage those who are of normal weight to manage their diet and exercise routines to maintain lower body fat levels to discourage the chemicals from accumulating in the first place.