I have covered the difference in “healthy” versus “unhealthy” fat in a recent article that can be read by clicking here.
While rare in today’s society, it IS possible to have the purely storage form of fat (think hibernating bear) that has not yet turned against you and set you on the path for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. After all, our body stores fat for a rainy day. While humans don’t hibernate, throughout the vast majority of our fight for survival, starvation has been the norm. The ability to capture excess calories when available was a boon to survival.
Enter today’s lifestyle with no “hardship” for most of us in the industrialized world. The calories are everywhere and the quality is questionable. Do not EVER confuse the 100 calories in a kids’ size fast food french fry and the 100 calories in 3 servings of vegetables. Regardless of what you hear from some of the weight loss programs, a calorie is NOT a calorie.
Beyond the concern over the quality of the calories we take in and the exercise we do, what factors play a role in deciding whether our fat is going to be “healthy” or “unhealthy?” The answer is one of the scarier ones we face.
Toxicity from our environment.
For me, I think this is the scariest because it is subtle. The clothes you are wearing, the air you’re breathing, the plastic water bottle you drank, the mattress you sleep on, the new car smell in your new car and the non-organic bell peppers you ate with your salad. The exposures are literally everywhere and are usually silent. Sure, the “new shower curtain smell” is easily recognizable, but what about the BPA in the plastic water bottle you’re drinking from because you thought it was good for you? Tasteless and odorless.
Persistent organics pollutants, or “POPs,” are chemical compounds that are almost entirely man-created and are difficult to degrade in either the environment or our bodies. As a result, they accumulate inside your body and lead to all kinds of nasty things like cancer, obesity and diabetes.
While the list of POPs is extensive, there are some that top the list of the most common and they fall into 3 categories:
- Pesticides: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene;
- Industrial chemicals: hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and
- By-products: hexachlorobenzene; polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF), and PCBs.
In case you’d really like to stay in tune with the research and worldwide advocacy of POPs, then the Stockholm Convention website is the best place to start.
Overall, though, it is clear that exposure to POPs is a bad thing, and this article is yet another one that clarifies just how extensive the problem is. In it, researchers looked at the difference in POPs levels between women who were obese but metabolically healthy (based on risk factors for heart disease and prediabetes) and obese and unhealthy. Here are the details:
- They looked at 21 different pollutants.
- Unhealthy obese women had higher levels of 12 POPs which was 40% higher than the healthy obese group.
- Specifically, there were 470% higher levels of total dioxin- and non-dioxin-like PCBs (used in industrial uses and plastics).
- Trans-nonachlor levels (an insecticide) were 610% higher.
There are uncountable numbers of POPs that we are exposed to on a daily basis and some are more strongly associated with chronic diseases than others. But the associations between certain POPs in this study and obesity are scary.
Overall, this means that you need to examine the chemicals you are exposed to every single day and do your best to avoid or reduce your exposure to these chemicals. As an example, feel free to check out this article on the use of diatomaceous earth for pest control.