Tales From the Flaky Fringe


Childhood Obesity News looks at factors that may or may not impact the obesity epidemic. Today’s punchlines have a way of becoming tomorrow’s reality, and if there is an underlying macro-cause for the result that we call the obesity epidemic, it would be better to know about it.

At an international conference on Excellence in Pediatrics, professor of Human Nutrition from the University of Ulster Barbara Livingstone noted that science had identified more than 30 potential risk factors connected with childhood obesity, although admittedly only a few were at that point supported by solid evidence. Prof. Livingstone said that in many countries, the environment had become “obesogenic or obesity-causing.”

In 2014, University of Southern California researchers used data from a longitudinal (8 years) study of children living in proximity to freeways and other major roads, and of kids living with secondhand cigarette smoke. In either case, the children had a greater chance of becoming obese later. Some of the subjects fulfilled both categories, and they were “even more likely to experience weight gain than those who were exposed to only one — or to neither.”

Journalist Lecia Bushak reported for Medical Daily:

A recent study out of Brigham Young University, for example, found that secondhand smoke increased the risk for obesity. The researchers examined mice who were exposed to secondhand smoke, and found that tobacco caused the body to develop insulin resistance, which is of course the first step toward type 2 diabetes, a chronic disorder often linked to obesity.

In 2016, journalist Adele Peters looked into the notorious air pollution of China’s capital city, Beijing. It seems to have been accepted that modern progress brings along a certain amount of asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease, if people insist on breathing the air.

But air as obesity villain is a relatively new concept. Scientists established a lab about a mile from a 14-lane highway, let some rats breathe the polluted air, and provided others with HEPA-filtered environments. The polluted-air rats became as much as 18% heavier.

Peters wrote in an article for Fast Company:

At the beginning of the experiment, pregnant rats in both groups were basically all the same weight. Nineteen days in, those unlucky enough to live with air pollution were 15% fatter, with inflammation in their lungs and signs of insulin resistance. When their babies were born, they also gained weight quickly; the female babies were 10% heavier than the ones living in the filtered cage, and the male babies were 18% fatter.

This doesn’t sound good at all. Additionally, people often forget that the environment includes everything that isn’t us, including the stuff we put in our mouths.

No, not food this time, although food certainly counts. This is about Triclosan.

The Food and Drug Administration took four decades to think it over, and finally banned the chemical from being an ingredient in soap. But it can still be in toothpaste, including the biggest-selling brands. It has been shown that chemicals are absorbed more efficiently through the tissues of the mouth than through the skin, but, apparently, the FDA did not get the memo.

Why is this a problem? Nikita Mishra writes in The Quint:

Even if a trillionth per gramme of this seeps into your body, it can affect your normal thyroid function; damage your brain lining; cause infertility; and is co-related to a host of chronic health issues, like childhood obesity and diabetes, among others.

Maybe this is all true; maybe it is needlessly alarmist. But is it worth taking the chance?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Toxic environment causing obesity, says professor,” Gulf-Times.com, 12/07/13
Source: “Children Exposed To Secondhand Smoke, Highway Air Pollution Are More Likely
To Gain Weight,” MedicalDaily.com, 11/12/14
Source: “The Smog in Your City is Why You’re Fat,” FastCompany.com, 03/08/16
Source: “Why Is a Banned Chemical Allowed in Leading Toothpastes?,” TheQuint.com, 09/14/16
Photo credit: Nick Harris1 via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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