Interventions to Address Environmental Metabolism-Disrupting Chemicals: Changing the Narrative to Empower Action to Restore Metabolic Health

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019 Feb 4;10:33. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2019.00033. eCollection 2019.


Metabolic disease rates have increased dramatically over the last four decades. Classic understanding of metabolic physiology has attributed these global trends to decreased physical activity and caloric excess; however, these traditional risk factors insufficiently explain the magnitude and rapidity of metabolic health deterioration. Recently, the novel contribution of environmental metabolism-disrupting chemicals (MDCs) to various metabolic diseases (including obesity, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) is becoming recognized. As this burgeoning body of evidence has matured, various organic and inorganic pollutants of human and natural origin have emerged as metabolic disease risk factors based on population-level and experimental data. Recognition of these heretofore underappreciated metabolic stressors now mandates that efforts to mitigate the devastating consequences of metabolic disease include dedicated efforts to address environmental drivers of disease risk; however, there have not been adequate recommendations to reduce exposures or to mitigate the effects of exposures on disease outcomes. To address this knowledge gap and advance the clinical translation of MDC science, herein discussed are behaviors that increase exposures to MDCs, interventional studies to reduce those exposures, and small-scale clinical trials to reduce the body burden of MDCs. Also, we discuss evidence from cell-based and animal studies that provide insights into MDC mechanisms of action, the influence of modifiable dietary factors on MDC toxicity, and factors that modulate MDC transplacental carriage as well as their impact on metabolic homeostasis. A particular emphasis of this discussion is on critical developmental windows during which short-term MDC exposure can elicit long-term disruptions in metabolic health with potential inter- and transgenerational effects. While data gaps remain and further studies are needed, the current state of evidence regarding interventions to address MDC exposures illuminates approaches to address environmental drivers of metabolic disease risk. It is now incumbent on clinicians and public health agencies to incorporate this knowledge into comprehensive strategies to address the metabolic disease pandemic.

Keywords: diabetes; endocrine disruptor; intervention; metabolism; metabolism-disrupting chemical; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; obesity.

Publication types

  • Review