Could pesticides in food lead to obesity?

pesticides, pesticides in food, obesity, chemicals in food, obesity risks, obesity causes, health news, india news Numerous studies have stated that chemicals such as pesticides DDE, HCB, organo-phosphates, heavy metals and solvents cause weight gain, possibly by interfering with weight regulating hormones, neurotransmitters and altering the nervous system.

Chemicals including chemical pesticides and solvents in our food have been associated with increased risk of cancers, auto-immune diseases, neurological problems, reproductive and birth defects. However, what is new is the role for chemical toxins in the development of obesity and associated conditions including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

For the first time, a novel idea published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2002, postulated the role of chemical toxins in the development of obesity. This hypothesis led to the review of data showing that the current epidemic of obesity coincides with the marked increase in the industrial use of chemicals in the last 40 years. Numerous studies have stated that chemicals such as pesticides DDE, HCB, organo-phosphates, heavy metals and solvents cause weight gain, possibly by interfering with weight regulating hormones, neurotransmitters and altering the nervous system. These chemicals are also being included in the obesogen category, which refers to molecules that inappropriately regulate fat and lipid metabolism to promote obesity.


The fact that obesity is undoubtedly related to faulty eating, sedentary lifestyle and is a complex interaction between genetic behaviour and environmental factors, is well established. However, the relationship between toxic chemical components in the food chain contributing to the escalation of the obesity epidemic is believed to begin even before birth. It suggests that perinatal and early developmental exposures to environmental chemicals may play a role in the development of obesity later in life. A study published in 2007 in the journal ‘Environmental International’ measured concentrations of widely used pesticides and chemicals in blood samples of 700 pregnant mother–child pairs in Greece. A 10-fold increase in the mothers’ pesticide concentrations was associated with higher risks of generalized and abdominal obesity, higher blood pressure and increased body weight in the children.

The scientific hypothesis that adult health and risk of diseases begins in fetal or early neonatal periods is not unique and new. Increasing number of studies now report that exposure to chemicals during critical periods of development at low doses alters developmental programming resulting in obesity. Increasing evidence also links the widespread exposure to pesticides to the global epidemics of type-2 diabetes and obesity. A 2015 animal study published in the journal ‘Environmental Research’ reported that mice exposed to a commonly used pesticide (organophosphate), showed increase in food ingestion, blood glucose, cholesterol and body fat regulating hormones including ghrelin, leptin and insulin.

Identification of these obesogens, originating from pesticides and chemicals in our food and gene-environmental interaction is an exciting area of future research in the wake of the growing uncapped epidemic of obesity. Meanwhile, a healthy diet, regular physical activity, stress management, along with ‘adopting organic’ is surely a prudent approach to safeguard our well being.

Author is a clinical nutritionist and founder of and Whole Foods India

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Seven out of 10 diabetics have carb-heavy diet: Survey

diabetes If we are what we eat, then seven out 10 people with diabetes in urban India seem to be paying little attention to what and how much they eat (Source: Thinkstock Images)

If we are what we eat, then seven out 10 people with diabetes in urban India seem to be paying little attention to what and how much they eat, according to findings from the Abbott Food, Spikes and Diabetes survey.

Ahead of World Diabetes Day November 14, Abbott commissioned Ipsos India, a market research agency to reach out to over 4,100 people with diabetes (Type 2, diagnosed for over eighteen months) between the ages of 36 – 65 years, across socioeconomic classes. The objective was to gain insights on what they eat, the meal plate’s role on blood sugar variability and impact on overall diabetes management.

Through in-depth interviews, respondents shared details of their diet, monitoring and exercise. The frequency of meals and the quantity was measured through customised bowls, glasses, which were then converted to grams and calories.


An official release issued November 5 said eight Indian Cities were covered in the survey which found that 62 per cent of people with diabetes are overweight or obese with a Body Mass Index (BMI) reading in excess of 22.9 (the normal cut-off for Indians). 46 per cent of people with diabetes are classified as obese. Men had an average BMI value of 24.1, which is classified as overweight and women had an average BMI of 25.3, indicating obesity. 65 per cent have uncontrolled blood sugar levels, with their last blood sugar readings outside the target range for fasting or postprandial (post meal) 62 per cent suffer from other medical conditions. Hypertension (40 per cent) comes out as the most common co-morbidity. At least 70 per cent of respondents having diabetes for more than five years reported one or more co-morbidity. Eye disorders (retinopathy) and nerve disorders (neuropathy) are relatively high in this group.

“Unlike in the West, where fasting blood glucose is important, in India post-meal blood glucose is more important due to higher glycemic load in the Indian diet,” says Professor Shashank R Joshi, President, Indian Academy of Diabetes and Senior Endocrinologist, Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai. Roti and rice are two main sources of carbohydrates in the Indian meal plate. Upma, observed to be a popular breakfast item particularly in South India, is seen to add the maximum amount of calories, compared to other regular breakfast items. The biggest challenge for a patient with diabetes is the huge variation in the time interval between meals. Typically, Indians have a three to four hour gap between wake-up time and breakfast, which is detrimental for these patients. Therefore, they should have a shorter time gap with breakfast comprising whole grains or balanced meal replacements with diabetes-specific nutrition powders,” says Joshi.

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All about wrinkles and what to look for in an anti-wrinkle cream


How our skin ages depends on a number of external and internal factors like hormonal changes, diet, genes, lifestyle, medications, stress and even the pollution level, sun exposure and climate of the place where we live. Surprisingly, the cosmetics and skin products that promise to treat our wrinkles, meddle with our skin and accelerate ageing, especially those containing ingredients like alcohol, menthol, rough scrubbing agents, harsh cleansing agents, thick emollients and pore clogging waxes.

We believe their claims, thanks to the bombardment of the advertisements that try to convince us to use these products with the so-called ‘studies and clinical trials’ published in some obscure medical journals. The models that sell these to us are mostly celebrities, looking at their best under the layers of carefully done makeup to conceal their own skin flaws and wrinkles. With each shot so carefully edited that these models looks ridiculously perfect to be humans.

But we are humans after all, made of organic matters that decay. We do not need the brain of Albert Einstein to know that a healthy skin is a beautiful skin at any age. A healthy skin not only glows but also performs at its best to keep us healthier.

How our skin protects us
Skin has many functions than just make us look nice. It acts as our frontiers and protects us from the outside world. It intercepts and cuts ultraviolet radiation with the help of specialised pigment cells, called melanocytes. It even turns into a laboratory to manufacture all important vitamin D3 with the help of sunlight.

It acts as our thermostat. In cold weather the skin triggers shivers making the blood vessels contract to retain body heat and keep warm. In warm weather, the sweat glands in the skin produce sweat that evaporates and keeps the body cool. It offers unique advantages for drug input into the body. Trans-dermal (via skin) delivery represents an attractive alternative to oral delivery of drugs and in certain cases, provides an alternative to hypodermic injection too. It finally creates our appearance, elastic tissues such as the skin require a strong structural framework called the extracellular matrix (connective tissue), of adipose (fat cells), cartilage, bone, tendons, and ligaments beneath the skin make us look the way we look. And this contributes to our confidence and in many cases, our self esteem.


Signs of skin ageing
Ageing of the skin starts as early as 25, by 35, the skin starts losing its firmness and fine wrinkles appear, and usually, the ‘ageing’ shows and if there is a loss of muscle tone, sagging of the skin takes place in the 40’s. In the 50’s, the lines of expression become prominent and there appear to be further sagging on the cheeks as well as the neck. The process accelerates if we a) don’t exercise, b) eat unhealthy, c) smoke, d) drink excessively e) are stressed f) have hormonal disturbances g) suffer from a chronic disease and so on. With good diet, exercise and the right attitude, one can keep looking as elegant as possible till the ripe old age. Some good products that protect the skin from sun exposure also help.

Ageing signs can be classified into four main categories: wrinkles/texture, lack of firmness of cutaneous tissues (sagging), vascular disorders, and pigmentation heterogeneities (spots).

Premature ageing
An interesting study* shows that photoaged (exposed to sun) women look older than women who protect themselves from the sun. This factor is higher when one is younger. Pigmentation and wrinkles/texture, especially wrinkles around lips, are signs that make a person look older earlier. It is an important observation from this study that the signs of photoaging influence age appreciation through the eyes of other people. Thus, the term “premature skin” could correspond very well to description of photoaged skin, which is actually prematurely aged skin.

An interesting article** had appeared in the British journal of Dermatology about the anatomy of linear wrinkles – “crow’s feet’ and temporal frown lines. The subject of fine criss-cross wrinkles of the face and wrinkling of the general body surface was studied by light and scanning electron microscopy. No histological (study that deals with minute body structures) features distinguished the various wrinkles from surrounding skin. It was concluded that the wrinkle is a configuration change, like the grooves worn into an old glove, without specific structural alterations at the histological level. As regards pathogenesis (changes that lead to a disease), the common setting was found to be deterioration of the elastic tissue network. The skin becomes looser, excessive, and loses the ability to snap back to its original state after being deformed.

Based on above findings one more research paper was published in the same journal in 2010 (G G Hillebrand et al sponsored by P&G Company). Among their findings, the researchers observed that the subjects’ unique pattern of persistent facial wrinkling observed with a neutral expression at 8 years was predicted by the pattern of expression lines observed with smiling at baseline. Having lighter skin colour or having a drier, more alkaline stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis, consisting of dead cells) baseline was predictive of more wrinkling at year 8. They also found that wrinkling was associated with becoming menopausal, but not necessarily with being menopausal.


What’s different about Indian Skin
Recently the same P&G Company carried out a ‘first-of-its-kind, global study called the Olay Study, that includes Indian skin. The study was conducted across 3 ethnicities, researched amongst 739 women aged 10-48 years and introduced a new study Multi Ethnic Study. It is all about the four pillars of difference between Indian and Western skin. The more we know about different skin types the better because it enables us to design better products that are targeted at specific populations and problems. For example knowing that Indian women have on an average a weaker skin barrier, increasing the level of niacinamide (a barrier-building active) in skin care products would help, or adding new ingredients that one can combine with niacinamide to make it even more effective.

What to look for in an anti-ageing skin product?
The study looked well-designed without tall claims. Some more reading on niacinamide (1 – Bissett D et al. A B vitamin that improves ageing facial skin appearance) threw in some surprises. Also known as vitamin B3 and nicotinic acid, niacinamide is a potent cell-communicating ingredient (cell-communicating ingredients have the ability to tell a skin cell to look, act, and behave more like a normal, healthy intact skin cell would) that offers multiple benefits for ageing skin. Assuming skin is being protected from sun exposure, niacinamide can improve skin’s elasticity, dramatically enhance its barrier function, help erase discolorations, and revive skin’s healthy tone and texture. Topically applied niacinamide has been shown to increase certain substances in skin, prevent skin from losing water content, and stimulate microcirculation in the dermis. It also has a growing reputation for being able to treat an uneven skin tone.

Now we know what ingredients to look for in an anti-ageing skin product but regular exercise, healthy lifestyle and good diet as well as capacity to keep that child like enthusiasm alive in us, keeps us looking young and beautiful at any age.
* Clin. Cosmet. Investig. Dermatol. 2013; 6: 221–232, Published online 2013 Sep 27 – (Frederic Flament et al)
** British Journal of Dermatology (A M Kligman et al, Volume 113, Issue 1, pages 37–42, July 1985)
*** Dermatol Surg. 2005; 31(7 Pt. 2):860-5; Discussion 865. 2 – Gehring W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2004; 3(2):88-93)

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Depression can damage your memory

depression-main Once they enter memory, depressive thoughts can linger for long in affected people (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Once they enter memory, depressive thoughts can linger for long in affected people, and this extended duration may reduce the amount of information that these individuals can remember, suggests new research.

The findings have far-reaching implications for understanding how depression damages memory, as well as how depression develops and persists over the course of an individual’s lifetime.

“People with depression or even healthy people with a depressed mood can be affected by depressive thoughts,” explained researcher Bart Rypma from The University of Texas at Dallas in the US.

“We have known that negative thoughts tend to last longer for those with depression. However, this study is unique in showing that these thoughts, triggered from stimuli in the environment, can persist to the point that they hinder a depressed person’s ability to keep their train of thought,” Rypma noted.


For the study, researchers recruited 75 university undergraduate students; thirty students were classified as having depressive symptoms and 45 participants were categorised as not exhibiting depressive symptoms.

All participants were asked to respond to a sentence featuring depressive thoughts, such as “I am sad,” or “People don’t like me,” or neutral information. They were then asked to remember a string of numbers.

Individuals with depressed mood forgot more number strings than people without depressed mood when responding to a sentence with negative information.

“We all have a fixed amount of information we can hold in memory at one time,” lead author of the study Nick Hubbard from the University of Texas at Dallas explained.

“The fact that depressive thoughts do not seem to go away once they enter memory certainly explains why depressed individuals have difficulty concentrating or remembering things in their daily lives,” Hubbard noted.

The findings appeared in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

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Standing six hours a day can prevent you from obesity

Standing for at least one-quarter of the day is linked to to 32 per cent reduced likelihood of obesity (Source: Thinkstock Images) Standing for at least one-quarter of the day is linked to to 32 per cent reduced likelihood of obesity (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Standing for at least one-quarter of the day is linked to to 32 per cent reduced likelihood of obesity, new research has found.

While sedentary behaviour (such as watching TV and commuting time) has been linked to negative health effects, it is unclear whether more time spent standing has protective health benefits.

To investigate further, a research team led by Kerem Shuval from American Cancer Society examined reported standing habits in relation to objectively measured obesity and metabolic risk among more than 7,000 adults between 2010 and 2015.

Specifically, the association between standing time and obesity was determined through three measures: body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and waist circumference.

The association between standing and metabolic risk was assessed via metabolic syndrome, a clustering of risk factors that increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

The study found that among men, standing a quarter of the time was linked to a 32 percent reduced likelihood of obesity (body fat percentage).

Standing half the time was associated with a 59 percent reduced likelihood of obesity. But standing more than three-quarters of the time was not associated with a lower risk of obesity.

In women, standing a quarter, half, and three quarters of the time was associated with 35 percent, 47 percent, and 57 percent respective reductions in the likelihood of abdominal obesity (waist circumference).

No relationship between standing and metabolic syndrome was found among women or men.

The study appeared in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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Why women shouldn’t ignore mini-strokes

depression-main “Women are care-givers and so they generally do not pay much attention to slight temporary changes that occur during their activities,” says expert (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Leading neurologists and stroke specialists here on Thursday urged women to seek immediate medical attention in case of “mini-strokes” as delaying treatment could increase risk of a major stroke.

“Women are care-givers and so they generally do not pay much attention to slight temporary changes that occur during their activities. Mini-strokes or Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) basically means that brain function is disrupted for a short time (less than 24 hours),” said Nabin Sarkar, senior consultant neurologist and stroke specialist at the Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals here.

“It can last for 30 to 90 minutes and many do not even notice the signs such as sudden numbness in arms or slurred speech etc.,” he said.

Sarkar and colleague Shankar Loharuka sounded the alarm bell on the risks associated with mini-strokes.

“One in twelve run the risk of getting a major stroke within 48 hours of TIA and within a week, it increases to ten percent. So instead of taking signs of numbness lightly, women should immediately go to a hospital where stroke management services are available,” they said.

In commemoration of World Stroke Day, the experts emphasised the gender-benders when it comes to stroke and its recovery and severity.

“Chances of recovery is less for women as compared to men and even severity is more for women. They are more likely to die of strokes than a man,” the experts said, adding community awareness and educating women as well as their partners is important.

They suggested the F.A.S.T. system to remember the sudden signs of stroke: face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call (the doctor or emergency service).

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Tuberculosis ranks alongside HIV as leading killer worldwide, says WHO report

TB main In 2014, tuberculosis (TB) killed 1.5 million people, 400,000 of whom were HIV-positive (Source: Thinkstock Images)

In 2014, tuberculosis (TB) killed 1.5 million people, 400,000 of whom were HIV-positive, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday, ranking the disease alongside HIV as a leading killer worldwide.

WHO said in a report that the fight against TB is paying off, however, with this year’s death rate nearly half of what it was in 1990, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to the WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2015, most of the improvement came since 2000, the year the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were established. In all, effective diagnosis and treatment saved 43 million lives between 2000 and 2015.

Worldwide, TB incidence has fallen 1.5 percent per year since 2000, for a total reduction of 18 percent.

The report highlighted the need to close detection and treatment gaps, fill funding shortfalls, and develop new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.

Global advances included the achievement of the MDG that called for halting and reversing TB incidence by 2015. The goal was reached globally and in 16 of the 22 high-burden countries that collectively account for 80 percent of cases.

“The report shows that TB control has had a tremendous impact in terms of lives saved and patients cured,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

“These advances are heartening, but if the world is to end this epidemic, it needs to scale up services and, critically, invest in research,” she added.

“Ending the TB epidemic is now part of the Sustainable Development Goal agenda,” said Eric Goosby, UN Special Envoy on Tuberculosis.

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Shampoo ingredient can increase breast cancer risk

shampoo-main Is your shampoo putting you at risk of breast cancer? (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Even at low levels, a class of preservatives widely-used in consumer products like shampoos, cosmetics, body lotions, and sunscreens can contribute to development of breast cancer, suggests new research.

The estrogen-mimicking chemicals called parabens also have implications for other diseases that are influenced by estrogens, the study noted.

These chemicals are considered estrogenic because they activate the same estrogen receptor as the natural hormone estradiol.

Studies have linked exposure to estradiol and related estrogens with an increased risk of breast cancer, as well as reproductive problems.

As a result, the use of parabens in consumer products increasingly has become a public health concern.

“Although parabens are known to mimic the growth effects of estrogens on breast cancer cells, some consider their effect too weak to cause harm,” said lead investigator Dale Leitman, a gynecologist and molecular biologist at University California, Berkeley in the US.

“But this might not be true when parabens are combined with other agents that regulate cell growth,” Leitman noted.

However, existing chemical safety tests, which measure the effects of chemicals on human cells, look only at parabens in isolation and fail to take into account that parabens could interact with other types of signaling molecules in the cells to increase breast cancer risk.

To better reflect what goes on in real life, the researchers looked at breast cancer cells expressing two types of receptors: estrogen receptors and HER2, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.

The study demonstrated that parabens may be more potent at lower doses than previous studies have suggested, which may spur scientists and regulators to rethink the potential impacts of parabens on the development of breast cancer.

The findings were published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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Chocolate, pizza among most addictive foods

The Top 20 list of addictive food includes chocolate, ice cream, French fries, pizza, cookies, cheese, bacon, pretzels, fried chicken, soda and cake. (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Chocolate and pizza are the most addictive foods, according to a new study that found that these highly processed foods are closely linked to eating disorders or behaviours that mimic addiction.

A research team from the University of Michigan and Columbia University’s New York Obesity Research Centre looked into common addictive foods. The team analysed 35 different foods items and surveyed 120 undergraduates at the University of Michigan and around 400 adults. The team used the Yale Food Addiction Scale, developed by psychologist and lead author of the study Ashley Gearhardt, to assess food addiction risk.

Chocolate topped the list of foods that are most addictive. It was followed by favorites such as ice cream, French fries, pizza and cookies, ‘Tech Times’ reported. Cheese, bacon, pretzels, fried chicken, soda and cake also made it to the Top 20 list. Processed foods have higher levels of glycemic load and fat compared to the non-processed ones.

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Researchers found that processed foods are closely associated with eating disorders or behaviours that mimic addiction. “Processing appears to be an essential distinguishing factor for whether a food is associated with behavioural indicators of addictive-like eating,” the researchers said.”Highly processed foods are altered to be particularly rewarding through the addition of fats and/or refined carbohydrates (like white flour and sugar),” said researchers. For instance, poppy is not addictive until it is processed into a refined state (opium). Grapes are not as addictive until turned into wine.

Symptoms of food addiction include loss of control when it comes to quantity intake, inability to stop or cut down intake despite the presence of strong desire and continued use regardless of existing negative effects.

Researchers also found there is an increased activity in parts of the brain related to the reward system when given food cues. This increased activation in the same region is present in patients with substance-abuse illnesses. The study was published in the US National Library of Medicine.

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After iodine, an iron shot for salt

By M R Gandhi & Team

For several years now, iodine has been a standard ingredient in common salt that we use in India. The presence of iodine has almost eradicated the goitre disease that occurred because of iodine deficiency.

Our team at the CSMCRI has often been asked whether common salt can be fortified with iron as well. Iron deficiency is a common problem in India. Women, especially during pregnancies, need a good dose of iron, which cannot be supplied by a normal diet.

About couple of years ago, we made attempts to add iron supplements to salt. While the process might seem to be a straightforward case of adding a chemical into salt, but that is not the case. When we tried to add iron, we found that the iodine in the salt got destabilised. Iodine is present in salt in the form of Potassium iodate (KIO3). When we tried to add iron, in the form of Ferrous fumarate or Ferrous sulphate (FeSO4), the two compounds reacted to produce another set of compounds that produced a very pungent smell. In addition, while Ferrous fumarate is dark in colour, Ferrous sulphate is greenish. This resulted in a change in colour of the salt.

We had to find a way to prevent the iron and iodine compound from reacting with each other. To tackle this problem we decided to use Magnesium hydroxide Mg(OH)2 molecules. The Magnesium hydroxide has lattice-like structure which traps other molecules and acts like a cage. We decided to use this method for iron and iodine compounds.

In our experiments, we saw that the IO3- ion indeed was getting trapped inside the matrix consisting of layers of Mg(OH)2 molecules. Even the iron, Fe3+++, ion was getting trapped. We, therefore, produced two Magnesium hydroxide matrices, one comprising iodate ions and the other having ferric ions. When the common salt was fortified in this form, the iron and iodate ions don’t come in contact with each other. This method imparted ultra fine stability to the constituents.

The resulting double-fortified salt has cleared animal trials. For this, three sets of mice were starved of iron because of which the haemoglobin in their blood dropped. Then one set of mice were given normal salt, that is available in the markets, and the other set was given the salt which had iron and iodine in the Magnesium hydroxide matrix, and the third set was given iron and iodine salt, without the Magnesium hydroxide matrix.The results showed that the maximum improvement in the haemoglobin levels happened in the mice that were given iodine and iron through the Magnesium hydroxide matrix.

We believe that salt fortification does not need human trials, but we have done that as well. Two trials on batches of 10 candidates each have been carried out and the toxicity results have been normal. Another round of human trials is currently on.

Meanwhile, our laboratory has tied up with the district administration of Bhavnagar to include this salt in the mid-day meal programme.

For your research to be considered for this column, please write to Senior Editor Amitabh Sinha at

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