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Environmental Medicine

Americans are Exercising More and Eating Less Sugar BUT Obesity and Diseases are Still Rising.


Despite the thousands of books that have been written on diet and exercise, two out of every three adults and one out of every five children are overweight. More health information is available today than ever before on diet and fitness and Americans are listening. A 2017 CDC survey reported that for the first time over half of the Americans were getting the recommended amount of exercise. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported in the same year that Americans were eating healthier with fewer sugary drinks. Yet metabolic disease such as diabetes and obesity are increasing despite more people working on improving their health. Why are these health strategies not working? Could it be that the goals were sound but the strategies faulty?


Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge advocate for exercise and eating well. But, for many people, simply decreasing calories and increasing exercise will not work – regardless of what type of diet and exercise program you follow.


That’s because, beyond diet and exercise, many factors impact your ability to lose weight, including gut health, hormones, nutrients, and sleep. One critical but lesser-known factor is the impact of xenobiotics or synthetic chemical toxins in the environment that end up in our bodies. Many come from the foods that we eat, while others come from exposure to household cleaning products, heavy metals such as mercury and lead, industrial chemicals in our groundwater and air and even shampoos and other personal care products. These   have detrimental effects on cell structure and function—they cause DNA damage and inflammation, suppress immune function, alter metabolism, disrupt the endocrine system, and cause direct tissue damage.


The relationship between toxin exposure and disease is far more potent than almost any other known disease risk factor. Looking at how toxins increase the risk of both diabetes and obesity is a good way to understand this interplay between xenobiotics and disease.


50 years ago diabetes affected less than 1% of the population and now depending on the criteria that you want to use, it is 10 to 20 times more common. So what happened over these past 50 years? Our genetics didn’t change. And people are consuming 14% less sugar today than in 1999. Sure, we still consume too much sugar as a whole but the amount that we eat today has not changed significantly from 50 years ago. But what did start 50 years ago was the widespread use of persistent organic pollutants known as POPs.


Persistent Organic Pollutants - POPs


Commonly known POPs are DDT and PCB’s. DDT was widely used between 1940’s and 1970’s on crops and to kill mosquitos until it was finally banned in most countries by the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. But DDT is still used in some food-producing countries. Unfortunately, the half-life of DDT in the body can be up to 20 years. And it is still in the food coming from countries where it is not banned.


PCBs, which were used in paints, plastics, dyes, and other products, have also been banned but are still found in the air, soil, water and even dust particles in houses. PCB’s have also been classified as a probable carcinogen.


The rise of these chemicals directly correlates with the rise of the diabetes epidemic. Yes, correlation is not always causation, but in this case, it likely is. Dr. Skinner showed in a 2013 published paper that a grandmother’s exposure to DDT can ‘promote obesity and associated disease in later generations’. Since the CDC NHANES study in 2009 showed that 99% of those tested showed DDT byproducts in their serum, this could also explain the exponential rise of obesity and diabetes.


How do these Xenobiotics Cause Obesity?


These POPs bind to the insulin receptor sites blocking insulin from binding. With the POPs blocking insulin, the signal is not sent for sugar to be brought into the cells. Thus, blood sugar rises and then the pancreas releases more insulin to try and bring the blood sugar back down. Over time insulin resistance develops and eventually obesity and diabetes.


Xenobiotics within your system can also decrease thyroid production and metabolism, which retards weight loss. According to Dr. Neil Nathan, author of the book Toxic, “Our growing problems with obesity are directly connected to the increasing levels and types of toxins to which we are exposed.”


The main question then - Is it the chemicals in our environment that are driving the obesity and diabetic epidemic? Are they also driving the rise of all chronic complex diseases?


Our Toxic Load and Health


Commercial Chemical production has risen from 1 million tons in 1930 to 400 million tons in 2001 and over the past few decades, the global sale of chemicals increased by a factor of 25.


Listed are just a few of the many studies that have proven how toxic we really are.


In 2011 WHO (World Health Organization) estimated that 4.9 million deaths and 86 million Disability Adjusted Life Years are attributed to environmental chemicals. They found that one-quarter of the global disease burden is due to modifiable environmental factors.


Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in 2003 tested the blood and urine of people from different areas in America and found that each person contained an average of 91 industrial chemicals that included insecticides, PCBs, heavy metals (i.e. mercury, cadmium, benzene, and dioxin). Even more alarming, none of the participants lived near an industrial facility or worked in a job that handled chemicals.


A recent study by the Environmental Working Group, found Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, in every sample of popular oat-based cereal and other oat-based foods marketed to children, including those from Quaker and General Mills. Glyphosate is one of the most common xenobiotics found in the environment due to its heavy agricultural use and it is touted as being safe. Yet in 2015 The World Health Organization deemed it as a possible carcinogen.


A 2015 study measured xenobiotics in the umbilical cords of babies born in U.S. hospitals and found 287 foreign chemicals, including pesticides, chemicals from consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage, many of which were known to cause cancer or birth defects.


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducts ongoing assessments of the levels of environmental chemicals in the U.S. population. The fourth report (2017) showed that in the majority of individuals tested, acrylamides, cotinine, trihalomethanes, bisphenol A, phthalates, chlorinated pesticides, triclosan, organophosphate pesticides, pyrethroids, heavy metals, aromatic hydrocarbons, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, benzophenone from sunblock, perfluorocarbons from non-stick coatings, and a host of polychlorinated biphenyls and solvents were found.


Are We Actually Toxic?


As you can see, many studies show toxins in our blood and urine. And one could make the argument that this is normal and expected. I.e. Since all of us have some exposure to these xenobiotics and since they have no nutritional value and can cause harm to our bodies, our bodies get rid of it. One way to get rid of it is through the urine. As a result, all of us will show these chemicals in our urine.


So we know that we all have exposure to these xenobiotics but the true question is are we toxic from these chemicals. And the answer is yes.


According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, we are all being affected by these xenobiotics. Their mission statement is as follows:


We believe that environmental toxins are the major determinant of almost all chronic complex health issues affecting the majority of the population. These include but are not limited to Alzheimer’s Disease, Cardiovascular Disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disease, hormonal dysregulation and neurological disorders.


Take Control of Your Health

Everyone has a toxic burden. And even if you are in good health right now and have no symptoms, environmental toxins are still a problem. The invisible damage from daily exposure is accumulating and you may start having symptoms in the future. So, it is imperative to remov as many toxins from your food, personal care products, cleaning products, etc. and then work on removing the ones that have accumulated in your tissues. Just this small change of removing exogenous chemicals will start you on the road to real health results.

Once you’ve reduced your own toxic exposure, the next step is to remove the stored toxins from your body. This is a multistage process that should be done with professional guidance as you don’t want to start releasing toxins if your detoxification pathways are not healthy.

The Environmental Working Group’s website, is a great source for checking out how many toxins are in your personal care products. They also provide recommendations on how to remove toxins from your environment.

How The Johnson Center Can Help

Standard blood tests will not be able to show your toxic load as most toxins are stored in your tissues and are not circulating in your bloodstream. If you want to check your toxic load, one of the best tests is a urine test that can look at over 170 different toxins and/or an organic acid test.

Testing is not absolutely necessary as from the multiple studies done on the population, we all carry a toxic load.

But a carefully structured protocol to remove your stored toxins is necessary by accessing the health of your detox pathways and the nutrients needed to support the detox enzymes. They need to be metabolized, detoxified and then excreted. Ignoring these steps means that you will simply reabsorb the toxins that you are trying to remove.

For more information contact Dr. Johnson at or 276-235-3205

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