Chemicals in nonstick pans could be causing weight gain, study says

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17:  The annual Parliamentary Pancake Race takes place in Victoria Tower Gardens on Shrove Tuesday on February 17, 2015 in London, England. Now in its 19th year, the annual Pancake Race, which raises money for the charity Rehab, sees teams of politicians and journalists racing around a circuit whilst tossing pancakes in frying pans. The team of journalists won this year's event.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17: The annual Parliamentary Pancake Race takes place in Victoria Tower Gardens on Shrove Tuesday on February 17, 2015 in London, England. Now in its 19th year, the annual Pancake Race, which raises money for the charity Rehab, sees teams of politicians and journalists racing around a circuit whilst tossing pancakes in frying pans. The team of journalists won this year's event. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Credit: Dan Kitwood

Credit: Dan Kitwood

Nonstick pans were created to make cooking a little easier. However, they may be causing more harm than good, because they have been linked to weight gain, according to a new report.

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Researchers from Harvard University recently conducted a study, published in the scientific journal PLOS Medicine, to determine how using the cookware can interfere with weight loss.

To do so, they examined 621 overweight individuals who participated in a six-month weight loss plan. After 18 months, they found that the dieters had gained back nearly half the weight they lost. 

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Upon further investigation, they discovered that people with the highest levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), especially women, had gained the most weight. PFAS are man-made chemicals used to make products more stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick, and they are found on pots, pans and some fast food wrappers.

"These findings suggest that environmental chemicals may play a role in the current obesity epidemic. Given the persistence of these PFAS in the environment and the human body, their potential adverse effects remain a public health concern," the researchers wrote.

While scientists aren't exactly sure why PFAS could cause weight gain, they noted that people with higher levels of PFAS also had a lower resting metabolic rate. In other words, they were burning fewer calories throughout the day while doing normal activities.

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Researchers said they now hope to continue their investigations to better understand the underlying "link between PFAS exposure and weight regulation in humans."