I was just a speaker at the Environmental Health Symposium, the brain-child of the now deceased Walter Crinnion, ND. When I had breast cancer I spent a month at his detox clinic, at that time, in Washington.

Last weekend the “mantra” being taught to the doctors present was that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are blocking our hormones and thereby making us more overweight and insulin resistant. Even more so than bad food choices and sedentary living.

A study published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]) finds that exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) (a large and diverse group of industrial chemicals found in many everyday products as well as in much sea water fish-flesh) is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes in midlife women. And making it near impossible to lose weight!

The study is from my alma mater, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

What are PFAS?

PFAS are a group of more than 4,700 synthetic chemicals, first developed in the 1940s and which are widely used in industry as well as in consumer products such as non-stick cookware, water and stain-repellent coatings, food packaging, carpeting, firefighting foam, and even cosmetics.

Their molecular structure is based on a linked chain of carbon atoms with one or more fluorine atoms attached. These carbon-fluorine bonds give extreme stability to these chemicals. Making PFAS highly resistant to breaking down.

This means that once we get them inside our tissues, they tend to stay put. Unless we detox with intention, ha. Which often requires working with a practitioner-in-the-know such as at our clinic, Naples Center for Functional Medicine.

This durability causes PFAS to persist and accumulate in the environment as well as inside the bodies of humans and animals.

They remain for years.

Thus, they are now dubbed “forever chemicals.”

They are especially found in fish flesh. Ugh. Fish used to be a perfect food till we ruined much of it. But eating lower on the fish chain exposes you to the least bad chemicals.

PFAS ubiquity and persistence in both the environment and the human body has led to PFAS exposure becoming a serious public health concern, resulting in restrictions and even bans on their use.

At least one type of PFAS was present in the blood samples of nearly every American tested by the US Biomonitoring Program, and they were also detected in the drinking water supply of more than 200 million people in the USA.

What can we do about PFAS?

It’s in most of our water. You gotta filter water! I recommend a very low priced Berkey filter to put on your shower head and change every six months. We get a lot of pollution standing in the shower but this mighty yet inexpensive water filter helps keep many of these nasty chemicals out.

Exposure to some forever chemicals is looking to be associated with pre-eclampsia, altered levels of liver enzymes, increased blood fats, low birth weight, and elevated and resistant fat that does not seem to come off even if you “starve”.

Many PFAS have molecular structures which resemble those of naturally occurring fatty acids, resulting in them having similar chemical properties and effects on the human body.

Fatty acids act on a class of protein molecules found in cells called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), which act as fat and insulin sensors and are the main regulators of the formation and development of new adipocytes (fat cells) as well as the control of the body’s fat and glucose levels.

PFAS and Diabetes

Structurally and chemically similar PFAS compounds could potentially interact with the same PPARs, disrupting their function and regulatory actions, suggesting a possible mechanism for these substances to affect diabetes risk.

I was a reader/writer with Linda Birbaum, PhD and the WHO on a paper on what futzed with the PPARgamma receptor upping the risk of type2D, almost 30 years ago. My how time flies.

PPAR gamma is the insulin receptor. PFAS especially futz with this. The Pounds only study by Tulane and Harvard showed that women with more PFAS in their blood, gained weight back the most and fastest after dieting.

Experimental studies with cell cultures suggest that exposure to the high levels of PFAS found in some humans may interfere with PPAR function, leading to increased production of fat cells, changes to fat and sugar metabolism, and abnormal inflammatory responses.

This new study showed that higher serum concentrations of certain PFAS were associated with higher risk of incident diabetes in midlife women.

Synergy matters, too. The combined effects of PFAS mixtures were greater than those for individual PFAS, suggesting a potential additive or synergistic effect of multiple PFAS on diabetes risk.

My mentor at Tulane suggested this and published a paper in Science at the time. Back then it was not able to be replicated, though now it is. And he had to retract that paper. And he got PTSD from that. Drat. Timing means everything. Now he would be a hero.

The team found that combined exposure to the seven different PFAS had a stronger association with diabetes risk than was seen with individual compounds.

Women in the ‘highest’ levels for all seven were 2.62 times more likely to develop diabetes than those in the ‘low’ category, while increased risk associated with each individual PFAS ranged from 36% to 85%, suggesting a potential additive or synergistic effect of multiple PFAS on diabetes risk.

The authors concluded: “Reduced exposure to these ‘forever and everywhere chemicals’ even before entering midlife may be a key preventative approach to lowering the risk of diabetes.” They note that clinicians need to be aware of PFAS as un-recognized risk factors for diabetes and to be prepared to counsel patients about sources of exposure and potential health effects.

Can forever chemicals impact weight loss?

One of the number one complaints in health care today is how hard it is to lose weight.

It’s harder to lose weight in 2023 than it was in 1983. One of the reasons is forever chemicals, especially from non-stick cookware.

Harvard and many of my ole cronies from Tulane got women to lose weight on a Mediterranean Diet. Then they tracked how easy or not it was to gain the lost weight back, and how high their blood was with perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) forever chemicals that come especially from non-stick cookware.

This was a 2-year study called The Pounds Lost Study. Women with higher levels of forever chemicals in their blood, gained weight back the fastest.

Why would this happen? Dr. Bruce Blumberg, who I interviewed for Hormone Deception, one of the breakthrough books on endocrine disruption, has put forth the “Obesogen Theory”.

Dr. Blumberg says that these forever chemicals (as well as others) make “fat stem cells” that make all of our fat cells, in reality “birth” nastier-acting fat cells that are harder to shed even with caloric restriction and dieting.

The moral of this obesogen story is to try to decrease exposure and do regular detoxes as much as you can. The last third of my book Hormone Deception shows how to reduce exposure in your supermarket cart, your home and office, which are all where we get most of our exposure to these blood sugar and fat cell unfriendly chemicals.

Dr. Blumberg also says that today’s “dirty planet” that is rife with endocrine disrupting compounds, calls for us to live even more stringently to be well. Eating better. Moving more. And trying to reduce exposure to chemicals wherever we can.

Knowledge is power.

Authored by Dr. Lindsey Berkson, Naples Center for Functional Medicine Physician

Dr. Devaki Lindsey Berkson specializes in complex cases, high-risk hormonal patients, and severe gastroenterological cases trying to avoid surgery. Berkson knows how to connect-the-dots of cutting-edge research and has a large background of personal clinical experience with success in difficult cases to pull from.

Learn more about Dr. Berkson


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and incident diabetes in midlife women: the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Diabetologia, 2022; DOI: 10.1007/s00125-022-05695-5

PLoS Med. 2018 Feb 13;15(2):e1002502. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002502. eCollection 2018 Feb Perfluoroalkyl substances and changes in body weight and resting metabolic rate in response to weight-loss diets: A prospective study.

Hormone Deception Berkson DL McGraw-Hill 2000 Awakened Medicine Press Berkson DL 2016

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