The coatings that make cooking in metal pans easier may be making you fat. Harvard University researchers have linked the chemicals in non-stick pans to weight gain.
Since the 1950s, perfluoroalkyl substances - or PFAS - have been used in food packaging, non-stick cookware, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, water-repellent clothing, and even some cosmetics. While the chemicals’ effects on humans are not well known, past studies on animals have shown they may disrupt the endocrine system, or the glands that produce hormones. PFAS have also been linked to cancer, immune issues and high cholesterol.
“These findings suggest that environmental chemicals may play a role in the current obesity epidemic. Given the persistence of these PFAS in the environment and the human body, their potential adverse effects remain a public health concern,” the researchers wrote.
The team studied 621 overweight individuals who went through a six-month weight loss plan. After 18 months, the dieters had regained nearly half the weight they lost. While the results varied, the study revealed that women with the highest levels of PFAS in their systems had gained the most weight.
“The sex-specific difference did surprise us a little bit,” Qi Sun, an assistant professor at Harvard said. Women with the highest levels of PFAS gained nearly five pounds more than those with lower PFAS levels.
Additional research will need to be conducted in order determine whether PFAS chemicals directly result in weight gain. Some potentially important influences weren’t measured including socioeconomic and psychosocial factors, and potential relapses to prior diets weren’t considered. Still, the authors hope this study will lead to further research of environmental chemicals and their possible impact on obesity.