Maternal paraben exposure triggers childhood overweight development

Nat Commun. 2020 Feb 11;11(1):561. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-14202-1.


Parabens are preservatives widely used in consumer products including cosmetics and food. Whether low-dose paraben exposure may cause adverse health effects has been discussed controversially in recent years. Here we investigate the effect of prenatal paraben exposure on childhood overweight by combining epidemiological data from a mother-child cohort with experimental approaches. Mothers reporting the use of paraben-containing cosmetic products have elevated urinary paraben concentrations. For butyl paraben (BuP) a positive association is observed to overweight within the first eight years of life with a stronger trend in girls. Consistently, maternal BuP exposure of mice induces a higher food intake and weight gain in female offspring. The effect is accompanied by an epigenetic modification in the neuronal Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) enhancer 1 leading to a reduced hypothalamic POMC expression. Here we report that maternal paraben exposure may contribute to childhood overweight development by altered POMC-mediated neuronal appetite regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eating
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Overweight / etiology*
  • Overweight / genetics
  • Overweight / metabolism
  • Overweight / physiopathology
  • Parabens / adverse effects*
  • Parabens / analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / genetics
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects*
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / analysis
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / genetics
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / metabolism
  • Urine / chemistry
  • Weight Gain


  • Parabens
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin