Tag Archives: Environment

Is Obesity Caused By Pollutants Around Us?

If you are trying earnestly to maintain your weight, you may have the phrase “watch what you eat” in mind.  Junk food and sweets are out, but the question you forgot to ask is: should you be wary of other foods on your plate as well? The answer is yes.  

Studies have revealed that Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) play an indirect role in adding fat mass to the body.  People are affected by the environment because all our needs ultimately come from the surroundings and these very pollutants are able to enter your diet to alter the endocrine system, organ function, tissues, as well as fat cells.

Where Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Come From

Predominantly used as pesticides, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are now under restricted usageThese chemicals were created for industrial processes and were also released as by-products. 

Smog filled with pollutants created from factories easily reach neighbouring crop fields.
Source: Gustavo Madico, Flickr

Once exposed to the environment, POPs travel far and wide, made possible by its resistance to most chemical and biological processes in normal degradation.  Naturally, animals consume available POPs, leading to its bioaccumulation  in tissues.  The problem is then amplified with biomagnification in food webs, and humans are, of course, at the top of the food chain.

This video by Sustainable Consumption and Production Regional Activity Centre summarizes the impact of POPs:

YouTube Preview Image
The Link to Obesity

Since POPs accumulate in fatty tissues of animals, we consume them when our meal includes fatty fish, meat, and dairy products.

Fatty fish are victims of POP bioaccumulation.
Source: Ivan Walsh, Flickr

An increasing number of studies are finding a strong link between POPs and body weight.  POPs have been shown to affect key endocrine pathways in the human fatty tissue and there is a strong correlation between the expression of obesity marker genes (determinants of obesity) and POP concentrations.  In another study, a group of mice tested with a high-fat diet containing high POP levels gained more visceral body fat then the group of mice with a low-fat diet.   This indicated that metabolic processes were altered, leading to obesity and insulin resistance, which can progress to Type 2 Diabetes.  In fact, diabetes poses a possibly even more harmful health problem than obesity itself!

Possible Solutions

Despite the fact that POPs are highly regulated to limit its toxic effects, they can still be found in many environments because of the movement within food chains.  Does this mean you should lose all faith in the foods you eat? Hopefully not! As further research gives more evidence to support the causal role of POPs, awareness will increase and perhaps POPs will no longer be put in use.

It may be helpful to eat food grown with fewer pesticides, but a normal, balanced diet without excessive amounts of fatty fish and meat should be fine.

Post by Madeleine Tsoi

Olympic Fallout: Just How ‘Green’ is 2014?

Source: Flickr commons

Last Friday night, the world turned its eyes to a small town on the eastern coast of the Black Sea; the Sochi 2014 Olympics had begun. With opening ceremonies full of winter wonder, and the promise of a brave new world from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, Russia ushered in the next iteration of winter competition.

Though mired in controversy regarding the overrun of this Olympics (it is expected to cost roughly 50 billion Euros in total, by comparison Vancouver 2010 cost about 5.5 billion Euros), quietly shuffled aside are the concerns raised over the environmental impact.

Sochi National Park
Source: Flickr commons

To construct the Olympic venue for Sochi 2014, an area encompassing 8,750 acres of wetlands within the Sochi National Park has been effectively demolished. Though this area represents roughly 1.8 % of the total park size, it remains a sizeable portion to be lost. During the bidding process, Russia assured a zero-waste games and promised to follow Green standards. While this looks good on paper, zoologist Suren Gazaryan says “Sochi organizers have failed on all Green promises”. Gazaryan asserts he has witnessed not only illegal dumping of waste material, but also the blocking of major migration routes of animals residing within Sochi National Park; the park itself represents an extremely productive ecological area home to over 65 species of bird, none of which have been seen recently around Sochi.

Bolshoi Ice Palace – 12,000 seat multi-purpose arena
Source: Flickr commons

All of this begs the question: Just how stringent is this concept of Green? It shouldn’t be a surprise that an undertaking of this magnitude will needlessly (as many other locations possess the infrastructure to support international games) require substantial environmental sacrifices. In spite of this, the IOC gave the go ahead to Russia in the face of their fabled ‘no-waste games’ concept. While Russia admittedly maintained their lofty ideal of planting three trees for every one that they cut down during the construction of Sochi 2014, Gazaryan makes the keen observation that “…ecosystems are not Lego sets that you can take apart and rebuild somewhere else”.

For the next two weeks the world will come together to celebrate the best of human triumph, but in the face of glory and prestige have we lost sight of the Green standard we hold ourselves so fervently to? During the opening ceremony, IOC President Thomas Bach implored us all to embrace our diversity; let us not forget that if we are to attain that brave new world, we must also embrace our biodiversity.