Superfund Research Program

July 2023

Paper of the Month

Exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) can hinder dieting efforts to lose weight, according to a study by the University of Rhode Island SRP Center. PFAS, which are found in numerous industrial and consumer products, have been linked to various health problems, including metabolic changes and obesity.

The researchers gathered data on people with obesity who had participated in a large European clinical trial on weight loss strategies. They used statistical methods to explore associations between PFAS concentrations in their blood and weight fluctuations over time.

They observed a significant positive relationship between weight gain and blood levels of PFAS perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), regardless of which diet participants followed. For example, at 26 weeks, the highest weight gain — over 3 pounds — was associated with a doubling of PFOA in the blood.

The findings support mounting evidence that PFAS may contribute to the rising global trend in obesity and could help explain the variable success of some diet regimens, according to the authors.

To learn more, see the NIEHS Environmental Factor newsletter.