Volume 3, Issue 11
March 18, 2010
Does sunscreen cause
you to gain weight?
After a long, cold winter for many people around the country, spring is finally in the air. This is a great time to get outside and soak up some healthy rays from the sun. But don't overdo it. Doing so might require you to use sunscreen. And new evidence suggests sunscreen may cause you to feel sluggish and gain weight.
You may have heard that sunscreen blocks the amount of vitamin D your body gets from the sun. But now there's an even bigger concern. Sunscreen can poison your thyroid!
Some might say that's preposterous. After all, the thyroid is inside your body and you apply sunscreen to the outside of your body. You don't eat it. The problem is that the chemicals in sunscreen pass through your skin and go right into your bloodstream. And one of the chemicals is very toxic to your thyroid.
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The chemical is 4-methylbenzylidene-camphor. That's a mouthful, so we'll call it 4MBC.ÿ 4MBC is a hormonally active compound used in sunscreens and other cosmetics, such as anti-aging lotions and skin care products. It absorbs ultraviolet light. This is what makes it effective as a sunscreen. It prevents the skin from sunburn and the skin aging effects of UV rays.
But scientists in Germany recently studied the effects of 4MBC on thyroid function. They exposed rats to it for five days. They found that the compound caused an increase in the hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) along with a decrease in the hormone thyroxine (T4). This pattern is typical in the early stages of hypothyroidism. The chemical also increased the weight of their thyroid gland. This is another indicator of thyroid suppression.
Classic symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue and weight gain. So it's quite possible your sunscreen could be contributing to your lethargic mood and those extra pounds. This is especially true if you use a lot of sunscreen.
Some might argue that the FDA hasn't approved 4MBC for use in the United States. That's true. It's used mostly in Europe. But the researchers also found that the FDA-approved sunscreen BP2 (benzophenone 2, also known as oxybenzone) has the exact same effect.
And another FDA-approved sunscreen chemical, OMC (octyl-methoxycinnamate, also known as octinoxate) also suppresses thyroid function.
Right after I finished writing this article, I looked at the sunscreens we have in the house. We had three different brands, and sure enough, each one featured both octinonoxate (OMC) and oxybenzone (BP2).
Fortunately, there's an easy way to prevent the damage of BP2. All you have to do is take iodine supplements. The iodine prevents the thyroid-suppressing effect of BP2. So if you must use sunscreen, find a brand that has just BP2 and take plenty of iodine. You can find iodine supplements at most health food stores and on the Internet.
Finding your Real Cures,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
References: Hamann, I.H., C. Schmutzler, P. Kirschmeyer, et al. "4-methylbenzylidene-camphor (4MBC) causes pituitary effects comparable to hypothyroidism," Endocrine Abstracts, (2006) 11 OC60.
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