Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Does Weight Loss Increase Toxins in the Body?

The press just picked up on a study that was published in the fall by a group out of Kyungpook National University in Daegu, South Korea.  It's not the first study on this topic, but adds to a small collection of studies showing that losing weight increases the level of toxic chemicals circulating in the blood.  These chemicals are toxins found in the environment (pesticides, pollution, etc.) and some foods (pesticides, by-products of food processing like chemicals in the linings of cans, etc.).  

The theory is that when these chemicals get in our bodies, they are stored in fat cells.  Unlike other cells in your body, fat cells are pretty anti-social for the most part.  They just hang out and keep to themselves, except for releasing some nasty hormones at their leisure (and it's these hormones that increase risk for diabetes, heart disease, etc.).  Otherwise, what goes to the fat cell, stays in the fat....this includes excess calories we eat stored as fat and toxic chemicals that get into our bodies.   However, when we lose weight, fat is released into the blood to be used as energy and the stored toxins go along for the ride. As such, weight loss increases toxins in the blood.

Unfortunately, no one knows what kind of trouble they can cause.  There's a good chance that once they're in the blood, the body can break them down and get rid of them.  It would be a good thing to not only lose weight but rid the body of stored toxins at the same time.  Or there's a chance that they can be harmful when they're being pumped around the body, making weight loss a potentially bad thing.  But here's the thing....none of the studies reported to date have been able to show that the circulating toxins are causing any trouble.  Sure, no one wants toxins in their body, but how bad are they when they are released into blood after being stored in fat cells? 
Really, we don't know at this point.  I could speculate that it probably depends on how much weight is lost, how quickly weight is lost (rapid weight loss may be potentially worse), how many toxins are there to begin with, the health of the individual, the diet of the individual, etc.  For people that are overweight/obese people, lots of studies have shown that losing weight greatly reduces their risk for developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  And in the case of Type 2 diabetes, weight loss can sometime reverse or slow the progression of the disease.  So it would appear that losing weight is a greater benefit than the risk of increased toxins in the blood.  But for other's hard to draw any conclusions at this point. 

What to do with this new information?  Nothing, other then what we all should be doing to begin with.  Minimizing exposure to toxins (organics, avoid cigarettes and second-smoke, etc) makes good sense. Not becoming overweight or obese eliminates this whole concern.  And eating lots and lots of vegetables is smart for a multitude of reasons. 

At the end of the data, the media is going to have to try harder to convince this SHE that losing weight is a bad thing.