Developmental exposure to endocrine disruptors and the obesity epidemic

Reprod Toxicol. Apr-May 2007;23(3):290-6. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2006.12.010. Epub 2007 Jan 17.


Xenobiotic and dietary compounds with hormone-like activity can disrupt endocrine signaling pathways that play important roles during perinatal differentiation and result in alterations that are not apparent until later in life. Evidence implicates developmental exposure to environmental hormone-mimics with a growing list of health problems. Obesity is currently receiving needed attention since it has potential to overwhelm health systems worldwide with associated illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Here, we review the literature that proposes an association of exposure to environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals with the development of obesity. We describe an animal model of developmental exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a potent perinatal endocrine disruptor with estrogenic activity, to study mechanisms involved in programming an organism for obesity. This experimental animal model provides an example of the growing scientific field termed "the developmental origins of adult disease" and suggests new targets of abnormal programming by endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diethylstilbestrol / poisoning
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / chemistry
  • Endocrine Disruptors / poisoning*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry
  • Environmental Pollutants / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / embryology
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Pregnancy


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Diethylstilbestrol