Environmental Obesogens: Mechanisms and Controversies

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2019 Jan 6;59:89-106. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010818-021304. Epub 2018 Jul 25.


Obesity is a worldwide pandemic in adults as well as children and adds greatly to health care costs through its association with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and cancers. The prevailing medical view of obesity is that it results from a simple imbalance between caloric intake and energy expenditure. However, numerous other factors are important in the etiology of obesity. The obesogen hypothesis proposes that environmental chemicals termed obesogens promote obesity by acting to increase adipocyte commitment, differentiation, and size by altering metabolic set points or altering the hormonal regulation of appetite and satiety. Many obesogens are endocrine disrupting chemicals that interfere with normal endocrine regulation. Endocrine disrupting obesogens are abundant in our environment, used in everyday products from food packaging to fungicides. In this review, we explore the evidence supporting the obesogen hypothesis, as well as the gaps in our knowledge that are currently preventing a complete understanding of the extent to which obesogens contribute to the obesity pandemic.

Keywords: BPA; DEHP; DOHaD; EDC; TBT; adipogenesis; diabetes; metabolic syndrome; obesity; obesogen.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endocrine Disruptors / adverse effects*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / etiology*


  • Endocrine Disruptors