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Prenatal Exposure To Toxin Linked to Obesity

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers from Michigan State University have found a link between obesity in women and pre-natal exposure to toxins found in fish. The study is the first to show that eating fish from polluted waters has an impact on contributing to obesity.

Collaborating study author Janet Osuch, a professor of surgery and epidemiology at MSU’s College of Human Medicine says, “Prenatal exposure to toxins is increasingly being looked at as a potential cause for the rise in obesity seen worldwide. What we have found for the first time is exposure to certain toxins by eating fish from polluted waters may contribute to the obesity epidemic in women.”

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The chemical DDT breaks down into DDE. DDT was banned in 1973, but the effect lingers in the environment, after being used for approximately thirty years. DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane) is a synthetic pesticide used to control disease carrying insects, and was used in agriculture. DDT was used indiscriminately, without regard for the long-term effect on health and the environment. Public outcry finally led to the ban of DDT, but the byproducts of DDT remain active. The study from University of Michigan shows a clear link between obesity in offspring of mothers with the highest levels of DDE from eating fish along Lake Michigan.

Osuch says the findings should have an impact on how physicians approach obesity prevention and treatment. The findings would affect any woman whose mother was exposed to DDT during pregnancy. The study included 250 women who were enrolled n 1970. Beginning in 2000, the researchers began studying dauhters of women who consumed a lot of fish and high fat meat. Offspring from mother's with higher levels of DDE from DDT were more than twenty pounds overweight.

Osuch’s team has been granted $1 million to study how toxins and other pollutants affect the health of second and third generations. Consuming fish with DDT during pregnancy may contribute to the obesity epidemic in women as well for generations to come.