I read that toxins make you fat.  Is this true?  What exactly do they mean by toxins?

A toxin is anything that your body doesn't recognise as ‘food'.  This includes the obvious things like chemicals and poisons.  It also includes things like alcohol and drugs and less obvious are the lab produced additives that we find in food and products, yes even that lovely air freshener is a toxin.

The term obsenogens has popped up in recent times and it relates to ‘toxins which stimulate obesity'.  The effect that each toxin has is largely unknown but we do know that toxins influence the endocrine system (hormones and hormone receptors) and the endocrine system controls, amongst other things metabolism and bodyweight.


Below is a basic partial list of major endocrine hormones and their functions (extract from Wikipedia)


Thyroid Stimulating Hormone - Stimulates T4 & T3 release from thyroid

T3 (Triiodothyronine)

Stimulates energy consumption & increases BMR

T4 (Thyroxine)

Stimulates energy consumption & increases BMR


Is released from fat cells, decreases appetite and increases metabolism


Secretion of stomach acids


Stimulates appetite

Neuropeptide Y

Increase food intake, decrease activity


Suppresses various gastro hormones, slows gastric emptying


Stimulates stomach acid secretion


Releases bile, hunger suppressant, releases pancreatic digestive enzymes


Enhances cholecytokinin, stops stomach acid production


Uptake of glucose, synthesis of triglycerides


Increase blood glucose


Stimulates fat breakdown in fat cells, inhibits glucose uptake

Adrenaline (epinephrine)

Suppresses non-essential bodily processes, eg digestion

Androgens (testosterone)

Growth of muscle, increase bone density.


Accelerate metabolism, increase cholesterol in bile


These hormones act as a ‘lock and key'.  They travel through the body ‘looking' for the hormone receptor which fits their shape, the hormone locks in place and exerts its action (as listed above). 

Here's where toxins come in.  An endocrine disruptor is a substance that acts like a hormone in the endocrine system and disrupts the normal processes.  Toxins are endocrine disruptors.  You may have heard of the following chemicals: DDT & Bisphenol A, these are two chemicals which have been proven to disrupt the endocrine system. 

Disruptions can occur in different ways, they may affect the number or performance of hormone receptors, they may affect the release of hormones or the level of circulating hormone...and there are plenty more ways.  Overall if a related hormone isn't performing as it should, then your metabolism isn't either.

Many toxins are fat soluble, this makes them to ‘latch on to fat'.  Toxins are processed by the liver and the overload travels through the body where they are stored in adipose (fat) tissue.  While toxins are sitting in your fat or liver cells, day after day, they are disrupting the endocrine system.  Leptin, one of the main hormones implicated in obesity is also stored in fat cells.  I don't know about you, but I don't really want toxins hanging out with my Leptin.  Toxins congest the liver, normally the liver will metabolise toxins into water soluble compounds for excretion, but an overload slows this process right down.  Try pouring water through an old sponge that's clogged up with food particles, some very old crusty particles might flake off while the rest just sit there stopping the flow of new water  - this is your poor liver under toxic overload. 

It's very clear how chemicals, drugs and alcohol influence the endocrine system, but less is known about how additives do, although most nutritionists agree that additives are toxins.  Suffice to say, the human body lives on carbohydrates, fat, protein, fibre, water, air, sunlight, vitamins and minerals, so in all honesty since additives aren't any of these things then they certainly can be considered toxins.

In addition, dietary toxins such as aspartame and MSG can stimulate food cravings which leads to over eating, and an accumulation of toxins can affect absorption of key nutrients which also stimulates food cravings as the body tries desperately to make you give it nutrients (Yes, you may crave chocolate, but that is NOT what your body is asking for).

The lemon detox diet and other fads are NOT going to fix the problem.  Correcting toxic load in the body is slightly more involved, but the rewards are huge - the main ones being a reduction in food cravings and an increase in your metabolism's effectiveness, of course translating to weight loss.

Stacey 2009

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