The etymology is simple. An obesogen is something that causes obesity, in the same way that a carcinogen is something causes cancer. So what kind of agent might cause obesity? Pies spring to mind.
In fact we all have a pretty good idea of what causes obesity. There are plenty of books, magazine articles and blog posts that talk about it. But even if there weren’t we all know from daily experience that if we eat a lot we put on weight. And when we cut down again the weight comes off.
Are there chemicals that we are exposed to in small quantities that can disrupt our hormones to such an extent that we become obese? I suppose it isn’t totally impossible. But it seems pretty unlikely. Modifying appetite is not at all easy. And it has to work by modifying appetite. You can’t put weight on unless you eat more. The law of conservation of mass is very strict about that.
I decided to look into the evidence behind these obesogens. The main ones mentioned are bisphenol A and phthalates. These have both already been linked to endocrine disruption before, though on pretty thin evidence. I looked for the new data that widened their possible harmful activity to causing obesity.
I couldn’t find any. None at all. Not a sausage.
What I could find was links to websites that linked to other websites that reported vague suggestions and bandied about technical terms. I wanted to see numbers and experiments. I couldn’t find them. I did see a lot of adverts on the way though.
I think at the end of the day obesogens will prove to have a positive effect on the obesity epidemic. The people who are gullible enough to fall for this kind of thing will spend a lot of money on useless expensive products and will have less money left to spend on food.