Neonatal Paraben Use and Childhood Obesity

The cosmetic and skincare industry has had a recent overhaul in the awareness of ingredients and how they affect us. Some of it is still controversial, however, there are some ingredients I avoid and advise my patients to do the same. One of those ingredients is parabens.

Parabens are common preservatives in food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics due to their antimicrobial and antifungal properties. There has been some association with paraben use and breast cancer and increased allergies. They are xeno-estrogens (estrogen like chemicals) that can cause or worsen PMS, heavy periods & PCOS. Parabens, along with BPA and phthalates, do this by creating an estrogen dominant environment.

In a recent study, mothers who used parabens had children who were more likely to be overweight in their childhood years, and it was more common in the girls. The parabens in the cosmetic products were able to be directly measured in their urine. When they conducted this study with mice, they showed a higher food intake and more weight gain in female offspring, as well. With the mice, the effect was due to a genetic modification that changed their appetite regulation. They had epigenetic silencing and reduced hypothalamic expression of the gene pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) which is associated with food intake regulation.

With childhood obesity and adult obesity on the rise, some of it can be attributed to dietary lifestyle factors and less movement, but I believe there is definitely an environmental factor that is affecting our endocrine system.

All this to say, read your labels, and understand ingredients. Just like you read the labels of the food you eat, you should take the same stance for the things you place on your skin. Our air, food & water is already full of chemicals & metals that cause inflammation and overwhelm our mitochondria, why add to that burden? I personally avoid parabens and use the Environmental Working Group’s site to help me understand what I am putting on my skin. 

-Megan Lee, DO