March 20, 2009

Insecticide linked to weight gain in women

Prenatal exposure to the insecticide DDT may play a role in the increased obesity of women, Michigan State University researchers said.

More than 250 mothers who live alone and eat fish from Lake Michigan were studied for their exposure to DDE -- a breakdown of DDT.

The study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, analyzed DDE levels of the women's offspring.

The mothers are part of a larger cohort of Michigan fish eaters along Lake Michigan who were recruited in the early 1970s. Lead author Janet Osuch and colleagues identified daughters ages 20-50.

Osuch said compared to the group with the lowest levels, those with intermediate levels gained an average of 13 pounds of excess weight, and those with higher levels gained more than 20 pounds of excess weight.

What we have found for the first time is exposure to certain toxins by eating fish from polluted waters may contribute to the obesity epidemic in women, Osuch said in a statement. These findings not only apply to the offspring of women in our cohort but to any woman who has been exposed to high levels of DDE when she was growing in her mother's womb -- mothers with the highest DDE levels are women who have consumed a lot of fish or high-fat meats.

Although DDT was banned in 1973, the chemical and its byproducts remain toxic in marine life and fatty fish.