A new study has reportedly found that chemicals present in plastic consumer products are capable of adversely affecting the metabolism of human bodies, and may also be contributing to the development of fat cells and triggering obesity.
Published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, the research has found more than 55,000 chemical components in plastic consumer products and has also identified 11 substances, out of approximately 629, as known metabolism disrupting chemicals (MDCs).
Martin Wagner, the study’s co-author from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), stated that the experiments have shown that a mix of substances found in ordinary plastic products may be a relevant and underestimated factor to obesity and weight gain.
In the study, researchers assessed 34 daily-use plastic products, including kitchen sponge, yogurt containers, and drink bottles, to see what chemicals each contained. These chemicals were then investigated for their contribution to fat cell development via laboratory experiments.
It was found that precursor cells were reprogrammed to become fat cells, which proliferated and accumulated more fat.
Only some of the products tested in the study were found to have contained known MDCs.
However, researchers stated that these substances still caused the development of fat cells, suggesting that plastics might also contain chemicals, currently unidentified, which interfere with how human bodies store fat.
Previous research had indicated that a few plastics might contain hormone-disrupting chemicals which can affect fertility and development.
The new study, however, has not revealed a clear cause-effect relationship between obesity and plastics.
Johannes Völker, the first author of the study and affiliated with NTNU’s Department of Biology, said that known chemicals, like Bisphenol A, may not be responsible for metabolic disturbances, and that other plastic chemicals, that are yet to be identified, may be responsible for obesity and overweight.
Scientists claimed that due to limitations of the research, the sample set of plastics examined in the study does not represent all plastic chemicals that humans are exposed to.