Let’s delve into the world of a chemist (me) for a moment and see what we can find that will help you get rid of some fat. Today the topic is plastics, or more specifically, plasticizers. This topic started for me in 1974, while I was still a graduate student. At the time our lab had been buying solvents in plastic bottles because they were so much cheaper than in glass bottles. However, some of the chemical analyses that I was doing at that time were giving me odd results. After a lot of thought about what the problem might be, I got lucky when I noticed that the plastic solvent bottles smelled like … plastic! In hopes of finding out the nature of the odor, I distilled a gallon of methanol from one of the bottles, then noticed a syrupy sludge that was left over. It smelled strongly of plastic. After a quick chemical analysis, I identified the main substance as a compound called dimethyl phthalate. I then learned that this is one of the plasticizing agents that go into making plastic bottles. At the time I thought nothing of it, except from then on I distilled my solvents to rid them of this contaminant.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and plasticizers are now big news. Phthalates, along with a compound called bisphenol A (BPA), have attracted a lot of attention because they leach into plastic containers and cause toxicity in the foods and drinks that contain them.
We are talking about thousands of products. Water bottles are only the most obvious of the plastic containers. Plastic is also found in plastic food containers, in canned foods and drinks that are lined with plastic, in boxes of processed foods, in plastic dishes, and in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups, to name a few. Plastic seems to be almost everywhere.
Plasticizers, Estrogen Dominance, and Fat
The reason that these kinds of molecules are toxic is that they have an estrogenic effect. This just means that they add to the estrogen load even though they are not natural estrogens. So bear with me while a make this point. Natural estrogens, such as estradiol, are steroids. Natural estrogens are not at all similar to BPA and phthalates.
Somehow the human body accepts plasticizers as if they were estrogens, although not perfectly. If you wonder about the effects of non-natural estrogens (called “xenoestrogens”), you are not alone. They are now being blamed for causing estrogen dominance, even in infants, and all of the consequences that come with it. The FDA is doing its usual dance, since plastics are part of a big industry. in 2008 a scientific panel evaluated several research studies on plasticizers and concluded that they do, indeed, pose a significant health risk. At first the FDA ignored the recommendations to remove plasticizers from contact with foods and drinks, and even claimed that they, “…needed more studies,” to confirm the danger. The danger was so clear already, though, that the FDA finally relented, at least partially. BPA is supposed to be removed at least from containers for baby foods and drinks. Canada and other countries have already seen the light and banned BPA from food and drink containers, so the U.S. is a little slow on this issue.
As you may know by now, estrogen dominance leads to fat gain, and fat gain accelerates estrogen dominance. This is really a dangerous spiral, and it is made worse by plasticizers in your diet. One of the two absolutely best things that you can do to negate the fat-building effects of xenoestrogenic plasticizers is to avoid them. Never cook with plastic, never cook or reheat food in plastic containers in the microwave oven, never drink water out of plastic bottles … you get the picture. Although this doesn’t sound easy, it can be done if you have enough incentive to get rid of excess fat.
The second, and probably more important, thing to do is make sure you are getting enough progesterone into your system to counterbalance estrogen dominance. This is not necessarily a simple thing to do, so I will be posting much more on this topic very soon. Even if you have no exposure to xenoestrogens, which is unlikely anywhere in the U.S. today, you are most likely deficient in progesterone anyway.
All the best in natural health,