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Another Factor of Obesity: Plastics

by Yoli Ouiya on June 24, 2013

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In the wake of The American Medical Association officially recognized obesity as a disease and the many conversations surrounding it, I wanted to highlight an aspect that, in my observation, doesn’t get enough attention. One in three Americans are obese. There are lots of theories that pinpoint the high rise in obesity: the increased consumption of processed foods, over-consumption of high caloric foods, lack of exercise, genetic disposition, lack of will power etc. While I tend to opt for the first four as contributing culprits, the role of plastics and packaging in general isn’t highlighted enough.

Many man made chemicals (many of them found in plastics) are endocrine disruptors, which can and do change the hormones of humans, including the stimulation of fat storage, appetite, and regulation of sugar. With the rise of processed food and drink consumption, this is very biologically plausible. According to Watershed, the US consumers consume 1500 plastic water bottles per second. The analogy I use often in my green speaking engagements is imagine a water bottle on a hot summer day in a car. Imagine what it looks like. It starts to break down and get wrinkly. It is a plastic water bottle made of chemicals. If the bottle is breaking down, that means the chemicals are breaking down. And that means those chemicals are most likely going into the water still in your bottle and you will consume them.

From ABC News:

“Clearly bad diet and lack of exercise are the leading contributors to childhood obesity, but this study suggests a significant role for environmental, particularly chemical factors in that epidemic,” said study author Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.

Trasande and colleagues measured body mass and urinary BPA — an indirect way of measuring BPA exposure — in more than 2,800 American children and teens. While over 92 percent of the study subjects had detectable levels of BPA in their urine, those with the highest levels were 2.6 times more likely to be obese than those with the lowest levels, even after controlling for diet and exercise.

BPA, an ingredient in some hard plastics and metal cans, made headlines in 2008 when it was found to leach out of plastic when heated.

The link between BPA and obesity is biologically plausible, according to Trasande. In animals, the chemical makes fat cells bigger and inhibits the function of adiponectin, a protein that helps break down sugars and fats. It also appears to disrupt hormones that play a key role in energy balance.

When looking into the history of processed foods, in the 1960s, aluminum cans were originally used along with irradiation to sterilize fruits and vegetables. Processed foods from the 1960s included: Tab and Diet Pepsi soft drinks, Green Giant frozen veggies in butter sauce, Pringles, and Gatorade (which originally came in glass bottles). Like other brands, all of the above eventually switched to using plastic some form of plastic within the next 10-15 years, thus increased exposure to plastics in the everyday American diet.

Solutions To Go Plastic Free

glass-storage
Use glass storage containers for your food. Many containers come with plastic lids so ensure your food is low enough not to touch the lid and remove the lid when reheating food. I am not a microwave user and do not advocate for it, but if you must use, remove the lid.
Image: Kinetic Go Green Premium Nano Silver 14 Piece Food Storage Container Set

wean
For the Kiddies, Wean Green Wean Cubes can be used as baby food glass containers or to store snacks.

masonjars Mason jars are great for in home storage or taking food or drinks on the go from storing you green juice, smoothies, or making a stack-able salad!

If using plastics for food, do not store in hot temperatures or use to reheat food. Keep in the refrigerator or freezer to avoid decomposition of the plastic.

waterbottle
Use non-porous stainless steel water bottles (or re-purposed glass bottles like VOSS)
Image: Hydro Flask Stainless Steel Insulated Drinking Bottle, VOSS Water

glassgrains
Store your grains, legumes, spices, etc in glass jars.
Image: Anchor Hocking 3 Piece Square Stackable Glass Canister Set

As a side note, the only company I am aware of that does not use BPA lining in their canned goods is Eden Foods. If you are aware of any others, please let me know.

What are some other ways you’ve stopped using plastics?

plastic-obesity-hdr

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This post was written by...

– who has written 334 posts on Yoli's Green Living.

Yoli Ouiya is a Green & Healthy Living Expert, Green Chef, Publisher and Editor in Chief of YolisGreenLiving.com. She is noted as the “Queen of Green” by Black Enterprise Magazine, and currently operates a boutique eco-lifestyle outfit Yoli’s Green Living Group. Black Enterprise included Yoli in its “Top 20 National Bloggers” of 2012, was named ‘Best in Green Living” by AllParenting.com, and listed as “Top 17 Black Woman Bloggers to Watch in 2013″ bu ForHarriet.com. With a certification in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell, she offers workshops, lectures, and organizes a variety of eco-chic green themed events in New York. She is currently on the board of directors for The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, a health and nutrition specialist for Harlem Children’s Zone, and co-authoring a book slated for completion Spring 2014.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Erika b July 2, 2013 at 1:24 am

Are BPA free plastic containers ok or do they also have adverse health implications?

Reply

Yoli Ouiya July 2, 2013 at 8:18 am

Hi Erika!
Well in my observations, I think as we move forward, more and more research is going to reveal that all plastics have adverse effects on our health. This is especially true in instances where plastics is stored in temperatures above 40 degrees F, maybe even lower. For food, I simply prefer not to use plastics unless I am putting it in the freezer. But even in those instances, I will get a nice, freezer safe glass storage container to use.

Reply

Erika b July 3, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Thanks for replying, good to know’

Reply

Olivia Lane December 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm

i totally shared this. cancer doesn’t seem to scare people as much as being obese, so hopefully this will be useful in encouraging people to adjust their habits.

Reply

Yoli Ouiya December 12, 2013 at 10:40 am

Thanks Olivia. You’re so right.

Reply

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