Diet & Nutrition

A class of widely used chemicals lurking in nonstick pans, pizza boxes, food wrappers, and other consumer products are accumulating in people’s bodies and can cause weight gain. For 60 years, chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, have been used to make a wide range of stain-resistant, waterproof, and nonstick products, including cookware, carpets, and food wrappers. These chemicals have already been linked to cancer, immune system dysfunction, and hormone disruption. Now Harvard researchers have found exposure to these ubiquitous chemicals could also slow metabolism. The team analyzed blood samples collected from 621 overweight or obese people. They found those with the greatest levels of these chemicals burned fewer calories and regained more weight after dieting than those with minimal exposure. This link was particularly strong among women, who gained back up to five more pounds than those with the lowest PFAS levels. “It is very hard to avoid exposure to PFASs, but we should try to,” study author Qi Sun tells “It’s an increasing public health issue.”

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