Obesogenic endocrine disruptors and obesity: myths and truths

Arch Toxicol. 2017 Nov;91(11):3469-3475. doi: 10.1007/s00204-017-2071-1. Epub 2017 Oct 3.


Obesogenic endocrine disruptors, also known as obesogens, are chemicals potentially involved in weight gain by altering lipid homeostasis and promoting adipogenesis and lipid accumulation. They included compounds to which human population is exposed over daily life such as pesticides/herbicides, industrial and household products, plastics, detergents and personal care products. The window of life during which the exposure happens could lead to different effects. A critical window is during utero and/or neonatal period in which the obesogens could cause subtle changes in gene expression and tissue organization or blunt other levels of biological organization leading to increased susceptibility to diseases in the adulthood. Some of the reasons for this increased sensitivity include the lack of the protective mechanisms that are available in adult such as DNA repair mechanisms, a competent immune system, detoxifying enzymes, liver metabolism and the blood/brain barrier still not fully functional in the fetus or newborn. The mechanisms of action of obesogens lay on their ability to increase the number and/or the size of the adipocytes and to alter appetite, satiety and food preferences. The ability of obesogens to increase fat deposition results in an increased capacity for their own retention due to their lipophilic properties; thus prolonging the exposure and increasing the detrimental metabolic consequences.

Keywords: Bisphenol A; Diethylstilbestrol; Environment; Obesity; Organic pollutants; Phthalates; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Tributyltin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / drug effects
  • Adipocytes / pathology
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / toxicity
  • Diethylstilbestrol / toxicity
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Obesity / chemically induced*
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Phenols / toxicity
  • Pregnancy


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Phenols
  • Diethylstilbestrol
  • bisphenol A