Chemical exposure from everyday products can lead to obesity, according to a study published in the journal Toxicology in Vitro. The researchers from the University of Georgia state that the chemicals called phthalates, found in soap, nail paint, and plastic objects, can affect how much fat is stored in the body.

The researchers specifically looked into benzyl butyl phthalate, a type of the chemical. Based on their analysis of lipid accumulation in mouse cells or how oils and fats accumulate in the cells, this phthalate caused the same effects as the ones observed in bisphenol A, an endocrine disruptor that plays a crucial role in fat cell development.

In other words, both chemicals encouraged the accumulation of lipid droplets. However, the lipid droplets were larger after exposure to benzyl butyl phthalate.

chemical exposure

Chemical exposure may cause obesity. Credit: Pixabay/cocopariseanne

Apparently, this is not the first time phthalates have been shown to harm one’s health. Earlier studies have linked this chemical exposure with reproductive toxicity. The study’s lead author Lei Yin, an assistant research scientist in the UGA College of Public Health’s department of environmental health science, adds that harmful effects can even occur after prolonged very low-dose exposure to some chemicals.

The research team admits that the results cannot be applied to everyone since each person is built differently so some may not experience the same effects as others. Additionally, study co-author Xiaozhong “John” Yu, an assistant professor of environmental health science, says that the study shows that environmental factors such as chemical exposure affect the development of obesity but these cannot take all the blame since the disease can also stem from genetic abnormalities.

Nevertheless, despite analysing only mouse cells, they believe that the findings indicate that the same negative health consequences can affect humans. The researchers want to conduct further investigations about how other environmental chemicals influence obesity as well as search for plant-based chemicals that can offset the negative effects of these harmful chemicals.