Read the full article by Claire Wolters (MDLinx)

“Forever chemicals or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may increase risks of childhood obesity, and set kids up for health problems later in life.

A new study found that PFAS exposure changes young people’s metabolic processes, impacting how their bodies metabolize lipids and amino acids and altering thyroid hormone functions.[1] 

The researchers say their findings shed new light on how PFAS impacts children’s metabolic processes and may imply a need for PFAS screening at annual physical appointments.

The study was conducted by researchers at several schools of medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The researchers tested blood samples from 449 adolescents who had participated in the Study of Latino Adolescents at Risk or the Southern California Children’s Health Study.

The researchers measured PFAS levels in blood plasma and found that all samples contained mixtures of PFAS, including PFOS, PFHxS, PFHpS, PFOA, and PFNA. Using a high-resolution mass-spectrometry metabolism method to measure about 10,000 metabolites in the samples, the results showed that the chemicals affected multiple biological pathways responsible for diseases, says Lida Chatzi, MD, Ph.D., study author and professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School.

‘The study included two independent cohorts—one cohort of teenagers in the Hispanic population at risk for developing type 2 diabetes; the other a cohort of young adults,’ says Chatzi. ‘Both cohorts confirmed the original hypothesis—the proof of causality.’

PFAS impact on metabolism

Previous research has noted a connection between PFAS and thyroid health in adults. The study adds to the literature by highlighting how chemicals can harm adolescent thyroid function, too. 

‘In kids, this hasn’t been established before,’ says Jesse A. Goodrich, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School. ‘The fact that PFAS are impacting thyroid hormone is really important because thyroid hormone is one of the key determinants of metabolism that is necessary for normal development during puberty.’ 

The study found a positive association between PFAS and B-4, the primary thyroid hormone, in adolescents,[1] says Chatzi. It’s important to look further into this connection, as issues with the thyroid can roll over to problems with weight management or put children at risk for other conditions later in life, she adds.

‘The effect of PFAS on the thyroid hormones could perhaps explain their associations with multiple other diseases—from obesity to type two diabetes to cancer to liver disease,’ says Chatzi.

As such, forever chemicals could be more harmful than even the study shows, and more investigations are needed to define the breadth of PFAS-based health risks.”…