London: Eating healthy and exercising regularly are good enough for sloughing off the pounds. But what if your body acts otherwise? Doctors have found that chemical compounds in cosmetics disrupt the body`s natural weight control system.
Emerging evidence suggests that a more sinister reason than food and activity could be behind obesity. They are the so-called `chemical calories` lurking in beauty products, including innocuous looking shampoo, body lotions and soap.
Doctors at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York claim that phthalates, chemical ingredients in 70 percent of cosmetics and household cleaning products, have been shown to disrupt the body`s natural weight control system.
Exposure to phthalates through daily use may be linked to childhood obesity and weight problems in adults, the scientists warned, reports the Daily Mail.
In their long-term study on girls living in the inner city area of East Harlem, New York, Mount Sinai team measured exposure to phthalates by analysing the children`s urine.
"The heaviest girls have the highest levels of phthalates in their urine," says Prof Philip Landrigan, paediatrician and study author from Mount Sinai. "It goes up as the children get heavier, but it`s most evident in the heaviest kids."
Phthalates have been widely used as gelling agents in cosmetics, cleaning products and to make plastic bottles for more than half a century, but it has only just come to light that there may be possible health risks.
Another substance, Bisphenol-A (BPA), also present in containers and bottles, has also been found to be rich in `chemical calories.`
Billed as `endocrine disruptors,` they are absorbed into the body affecting the glands and hormones that regulate numerous bodily functions.
It`s not just girls who seem susceptible to the phthalate effect. In 2007, researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, US, found the same class of chemicals were contributing to abdominal obesity and insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, in men.
Rochester scientists analysed the urine, blood samples and other data of 1,451 men. They found that those with the highest level of phthalates in their urine had more belly fat and insulin resistance.
They suggested that depressed testosterone levels due to chemicals was the underlying cause of their weight gain.