Reference Number: 40
The global prevalence of obesity has been increasing at a staggering pace, with few indications of any decline, and is now one of the major public health challenges worldwide. While obesity and metabolic syndrome (MetS) have historically thought to be largely driven by increased caloric intake and lack of exercise, this is insufficient to account for the observed changes in disease trends. There is now increasing evidence to suggest that exposure to synthetic chemicals in our environment may also play a key role in the etiology and pathophysiology of metabolic diseases. Importantly, exposures occurring in early life (in utero and early childhood) may have a more profound effect on life-long risk of obesity and MetS. This narrative review explores the evidence linking early-life exposure to a suite of chemicals that are common contaminants associated with food production (pesticides; imidacloprid, chlorpyrifos, and glyphosate) and processing (acrylamide), in addition to chemicals ubiquitously found in our household goods (brominated flame retardants) and drinking water (heavy metals) and changes in key pathways important for the development of MetS and obesity.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS STUDY
Many of the components of metabolic syndrome are interrelated, for example, obesity is strongly related to insulin resistance, which is a well established risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Over the recent years there has been increasing concern that exposures to environmental chemicals in early life may be associated with chronic metabolic disease in adulthood. The current paper highlights some of the pathways by which these chemicals may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome later in life, including however not limited to effects on fetal and postnatal growth patterns, altered organ development and function and disruption of hormonal balance. Some epidemiological studies have reported an increased risk of reduced birth weight following exposure to a suite of environmental chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants, pesticides and air pollution. Insecticides, herbicides, and fertilisers have enhanced the stability of the food supply chain but they may also contribute to chronic metabolic diseases. For example, the use of pesticides such as glyphosate in the cultivation of wheat has increased ever since the industrial revolution began and may also be the cause of the increasing incidences of wheat intolerances observed over the years.