Sesame Street often features celebrity guests promoting good causes and singing songs – no one can forget Ralph Nader’s rendition of “A consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood!” Even First Lady Michelle Obama got into the act; she appeared on the iconic television show as part of her “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign. Her inspirational message caused Elmo to exclaim, “Well, if Mrs. Obama wants to exercise, Elmo wants to exercise too! Yay, exercise!” Problem solved? Not quite.
Exercise and healthy eating are important in helping Americans of all ages stay lean, and this is the message that has been drilled into our heads by fitness celebrities such as Richard Simmons, Denise Austin and the late Jack LaLanne. Although I don’t necessarily agree that their approach to exercise, nutrition and supplementation is the most effective method to get lean and stay that way, it’s certainly better than being a couch potato and consuming mass quantities of microwave dinners. However, with over 50 percent of the population now overweight or obese (and it’s estimated that this number will increase to as much as 75 percent by 2015), it’s obvious that there’s something else going on here. And that something is toxins.
Living in a Toxic World
Part of my business involves holding seminars, and one of my favorite guest speakers is Dr. Mark Schauss, DB. Schauss is the author of Achieving Victory over a Toxic World (2008), an extremely readable book about how toxins affect our health. Schauss is uniquely qualified as the author of this book, as he has been studying medical research on the health effects of toxins for over 28 years.
In response to the question “What is a toxin?” Schauss offered this definition: “In simple terms, it occurs when something from the outside gets into our system that our bodies view as being foreign and causes negative effects. But for each person it’s different; for instance, caffeine can be extremely toxic for some people because their bodies don’t know how to metabolize it.” This begs many more questions, such as “How many toxins are we exposed to? How much of these toxins are we exposed to? And, of course, what are the consequences?”
According to Schauss, if you live in America you can be exposed to approximately 80,000 chemicals. What’s worse, he says, we are not certain about what many of these chemicals can do to the human body. And to add a few more frightening numbers, in 2002 the US Environmental Protection Agency estimated that over 7.1 billion pounds of 650 different chemicals, 266 of which are linked to birth defects, had been released into the air or water. Schauss also says that in one study that looked at the blood profiles of white-collar workers, the researchers found nearly 100 chemicals – chemicals that did not even exist on the planet four decades ago.
Although all these numbers are alarming, they might not seem relevant to the question of obesity – but they are. Schauss says the proof that toxins are a major cause of this nationwide health crisis is evident in body temperature.
The Cooling Effect of Toxins
It’s been generally accepted that the average body temperature is 98.6 degrees, but now that issue is up for debate. Schauss says that among the experts in the American Medical Association there is a debate about lowering that number to 98 degrees, for the simple reason that doctors now see so few patients who possess temperatures of 98.6. Although low body temperature sometimes may be attributed to thyroid problems, the primary cause is toxins.
Metabolism can be thought of as the rate at which the body burns calories, and it follows that resting metabolic rate is the rate at which the body burns calories at rest. Because muscle is an active tissue, one way to raise the metabolic rate – and thereby allow you to consume more calories without gaining fat – is to gain muscle mass. So while both aerobic exercise and weight training burn calories, weight training offers a bonus by enabling you to increase your metabolism by adding muscle. Toxins, however, have the ability to lower metabolic rate. And they do this by cooling down the body.
A study published in the July 2004 issue of International Journal of Obesity supports Schauss’s view that hypothermia may be a protective response to reduce the effects of toxins. Now let’s look at how much this cooling trend has contributed to obesity.
In his book, Schauss provided the example of an individual who consumes 2,500 calories a day and whose daily activities consume 625 of those calories, or 25 percent of the day’s total. That would leave 1,875 calories to burn during rest. “In a toxic person, my estimate is that chemical load impairs their caloric burn by about 7%. One hundred and thirty-one calories remain unburned, which in turn gets stored. Do this for one year and you get 47,815 calories left behind (365 days x 131 calories). Typically, if you burn 3,500 calories you lose one pound. Take those 47,815 calories and divide this by 3,500 and you get 13.66 pounds worth of weight gain a year. Do that for 10 years and you have increased your weight by 136.6 pounds and you are now officially obese.”
One solution would be to take drugs to increase body temperature, but it follows that if the lowering of body temperature is a protective response, these drugs would increase the adverse effects of toxins. But before getting into how to deal with this problem, let’s talk about another problem associated with toxicity, and that’s hormonal imbalance.
When the body’s hormones are not in balance, it is more difficult to lose weight and gain muscle (to raise metabolism). Toxins commonly have the effect of reducing testosterone in males (making it more difficult to gain muscle) and increasing estrogen in females (making it difficult to decrease bodyfat). Schauss says there are many other disturbing consequences to women from an increase in estrogen.
“It is very well-documented that a lot of these chemicals are hormonally distributive and will stimulate an earlier onset of puberty,” says Schauss. “I went to school in the ’60s, and the girls in elementary school didn’t develop breasts that young; at the turn of the century girls could not get pregnant until they were 16. I was talking to a psychologist who told me that he had seen a number of girls who were as young as nine years old who had become pregnant – and as shocking as it may sound, it’s possible that some girls can become pregnant as early as age seven or eight. This is extremely disturbing, because these girls are unable to handle pregnancy either physiologically or mentally.”
Using this new perspective concerning obesity, it now becomes possible to develop a more effective approach to dealing with the problem of toxicity.
The New Science of Detoxification
The most accurate way to determine what toxins are in the body is by laboratory testing of blood, stool, urine and hair. From these results, one can take specific actions to detoxify the body, including using natural supplements such as glycine, vitamin C, selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine.
The most effective way to determine what toxins have invaded our bodies is lab testing. Shown is such a test for heavy metals.
Along with these taking these measures, it also is wise to reduce one’s exposure to toxins. One way is to avoid microwaving food and plastics together. Says Schauss, “Think of microwaving food wrapped in plastic as a way of infusing the chemicals used to make the plastic into our food.… Heat plus plastics equals a bad idea. If you need to use the microwave, do so with the food on a glass or ceramic (not made with heavy metal containing glazes) plate or cup.”
Other simple measures Schauss suggests to reduce exposure to toxins are waiting two days before wearing clothes that were dry cleaned, avoiding the use of aerosol sprays and air fresheners, and never allowing plastic water bottles to get hot. For more information on these and other practical steps you can use to make your environment less toxic, get Schauss’s book and follow his recommendations.
It would be great if we could go back to an earlier era when dealing with obesity was simply a matter of eating more fruits and vegetables and sweating to the oldies with Richard Simmons, but life is not as simple as it is portrayed on Sesame Street. We all need to learn about the effects of toxicity in our lives to deal with our nation’s ever-expanding waistlines.
- Flegal, K. M., Carroll, M. D., Ogden, C. L., & Curtin L. R. (2010). Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999-2008. JAMA, 303 (3), 235-241. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.2014
- Schauss, M. (2008). Achieving victory over a toxic world. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
- Tremblay, A., Pelletier C., Doucet, E., & Imbeault, P. (2004). Thermogenesis and weight loss in obese individuals: a primary association with organochlorine pollution. International Journal of Obesity, 28, 936-939. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802527
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2004 June). 2002 toxics release inventory (TRI) public data release report (EPA 260-R-04-003). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/tri/tridata/tri02/pdr/tri_brochure.pdf