A new study involving Michigan State University researchers has found that prenatal exposure to an insecticide commonly used up until the 1970s may play a role in the obesity epidemic in women.
For the study, more than 250 mothers who live along and eat fish from Lake Michigan were examined for their exposure to DDE - a breakdown of DDT.
They analyzed DDE levels of the women's offspring.
Compared to the group with the lowest levels, those with intermediate levels gained an average of 13 pounds excess weight, and those with higher levels gained more than 20 pounds of excess weight.
"Prenatal exposure to toxins is increasingly being looked at as a potential cause for the rise in obesity seen worldwide," said Janet Osuch, a professor of surgery and epidemiology at MSU's College of Human Medicine, who was one of the lead authors of the study.
"What we have found for the first time is exposure to certain toxins by eating fish from polluted waters may contribute to the obesity epidemic in women," Osuch added.
Though DDT was banned in 1973 after three decades of widespread use, the chemical and its byproducts remain toxic in marine life and fatty fish.
The study has been published in this month's edition of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.