On April 26, 2023, a new study published in the journal Obesity revealed that PFAS (perfluorinated alkylate substance) exposure from heavily used “forever chemicals” found in food packaging and other consumer goods can contribute to weight gain. The University of Rhode Island highlighted the widespread use of PFAS in everyday products, noting that the chemicals are “colorless, tasteless, and odorless” and are often used to create barriers or stop liquids from seeping.
PFAS chemicals can be found coating pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags, nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, and can prevent stains from seeping into carpets and furniture. However, these chemicals have also seeped into water from marine habitats to drinking water resources. The release emphasized that higher PFAS levels in blood promote weight gain and make it harder for people to maintain weight loss.
The research team, led by Philippe Grandjean, MD, a research professor at the URI College of Pharmacy, focused on adult participants who were part of a European Commission clinical trial in Europe that examined five different diets regarding weight gain. The team examined PFAS chemicals in 381 blood samples, finding that regardless of diet, participants gained weight if they had elevated PFAS exposures.
Grandjean expressed concern that environmental pollution may be affecting metabolism, leading to weight gain. He emphasized the need for future dietary trials to consider PFAS exposure to improve precision. The study’s authors noted that “baseline plasma PFAS concentrations were significantly associated with greater weight gain by 26 weeks after an initial weight loss.”
The findings of this study underscore the potential health risks associated with the pervasive use of PFAS in consumer products. As Grandjean warns, “we need to seriously consider the health consequences of our reliance on these chemicals and take action to reduce exposure.”