Obesity II: Establishing causal links between chemical exposures and obesity

Jerrold J Heindel, Sarah Howard, Keren Agay-Shay, Juan P Arrebola, Karine Audouze, Patrick J Babin, Robert Barouki, Amita Bansal, Etienne Blanc, Matthew C Cave, Saurabh Chatterjee, Nicolas Chevalier, Mahua Choudhury, David Collier, Lisa Connolly, Xavier Coumoul, Gabriella Garruti, Michael Gilbertson, Lori A Hoepner, Alison C HollowayGeorge Howell, Christopher Kassotis, Mathew K Kay, Min Ji Kim, Dominique Lagadic-Gossmann, Sophie Langouet, Antoine Legrand, Zhuorui Li, Helene Le Mentec, Lars Lind, P Monica Lind, Robert H Lustig, Corinne Martin-Chouly, Vesna Munic Kos, Normand Podechard, Troy A Roepke, Robert M Sargis, Anne Starling, Craig R Tomlinson, Charbel Touma, Jan Vondracek, Frederick Vom Saal, Bruce Blumberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Obesity is a multifactorial disease with both genetic and environmental components. The prevailing view is that obesity results from an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure caused by overeating and insufficient exercise. We describe another environmental element that can alter the balance between energy intake and energy expenditure: obesogens. Obesogens are a subset of environmental chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors affecting metabolic endpoints. The obesogen hypothesis posits that exposure to endocrine disruptors and other chemicals can alter the development and function of the adipose tissue, liver, pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, and brain, thus changing the set point for control of metabolism. Obesogens can determine how much food is needed to maintain homeostasis and thereby increase the susceptibility to obesity. The most sensitive time for obesogen action is in utero and early childhood, in part via epigenetic programming that can be transmitted to future generations. This review explores the evidence supporting the obesogen hypothesis and highlights knowledge gaps that have prevented widespread acceptance as a contributor to the obesity pandemic. Critically, the obesogen hypothesis changes the narrative from curing obesity to preventing obesity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115015
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Early online date05 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Jan Vondracek, Czech Science Foundation #21–00533s, Institute of Biophysics of the Czech Academy of Science, RVO-68081707, European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program, Oberon #825712.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.


  • Adipocyte differentiation
  • Endocrine disruptor
  • Obesity
  • Obesogen
  • Weight gain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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