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How to Avoid the Common Pesticide Chlorpyrifos that Sabotage Your Weight Management Efforts

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A dangerous and health-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos, commonly used on fruits, vegetables, soy, nuts and row crops is being banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It’s very good news, as a new study shows the pesticide sabotages your weight loss plans by reducing the body’s ability to burn fat.

In August of 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will stop using the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food to protect human health. The organophosphate insecticide (more on that here from naturopathic doctors and toxicity expert Joe Pizzorno, ND) is used on wide swaths of land including farming for soybeans, fruit and nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops. It’s also a common pesticide for non-food uses to control fire ants and mosquitos and is often applied to wood telephone poles and fencing.

A recent Canadian study shows that the pesticide chloropyrifos slow the burning of calories in brown adipose tissue. “Brown fat is the metabolic furnace in our body, burning calories, unlike normal fat that is used to store them. This generates heat and prevents calories from being deposited on our bodies as normal white fat. We know brown fat is activated during cold and when we eat,” said senior author Gregory Steinberg, professor of medicine and co-director of the Centre for Metabolism, Obesity, and Diabetes Research at McMaster.

This process called diet-induced thermogenesis, causes the body to store extra calorie and promote obesity. Chloropyrifos get stored in body fat and accumulate. Scientists from McMaster University made the discovery after studying 34 commonly used pesticides and herbicides in brown fat cells in mice fed high calorie diets. The study published in the journal Nature Communications further supports the belief that toxicity from pesticides can easily sabotage healthy eating and weight loss efforts.

The even more troubling facts is that it doesn’t take very many excess calories for this pesticide-induced thermogenesis to occur. “Lifestyle changes around diet and exercise rarely lead to sustained weight loss. We think part of the problem may be this intrinsic dialing back of the metabolic furnace by chlorpyrifos,” says Steinberg. He says the chlorpyrifos only need to inhibit energy use in brown fat by 40 calories every day to trigger obesity in adults, which translates to an extra five lbs of weight gain per year.

There are many other reasons why this pesticide is dangerous to human health. Chlorpyrifos are a known “toxic, brain-damaging pesticide,” that inhibit an enzyme, which leads to neurotoxicity, and is associated with potential neurological effects. Other health concerns include:

  1. Degrade healthy intestinal bacteria, which leads to weight gain (learn more about ways to get firm by lowering firmicutes);
  2. Alters insulin resistance, which increases risk of diabetes;
  3. Plays a role in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning disorders.

What Can You Do Now to Avoid the Pesticide Chlorpyifos?

The EPA ruling has been along time coming. It was proposed in 2007 during the Busch Administration per a U.S. Court’s Ninth Circuit’s order, which directed the EPA to issue a final rule in response from a petition filed by Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council. At the time, the petition requested that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances, or the maximum allowed residue levels in food, because those tolerances were not safe for children. A series of political barriers came and went with each new administration while roughly 30 million pounds of this chemical were sprayed on crops since 2007, according to data from the Environmental Working Group.

Certain states have already banned the use of chlorpyifos, including Hawaii, California, New York and Maryland. Canada and the European Union banned it’s use, however imported foods may be treated with the pesticide. The new ruling will mean the EPA is revoking all “tolerances” for chlorpyrifos, which establishes the amount of a pesticide that is allowed on food. In addition, the agency will cancel registered food uses of all chlorpyrifos.

One of the issues with chlorpyrifos is that they are persistent in the environment. They bind strongly to soils, which makes them relatively immobile, and they have low water solubility. This also means that despite recommendations to the contrary, washing produce will not remove chlorpyrifos. We’ve collected some data to show you which foods contain chlorpyrifos so that you may use this as a guide when purchasing food:

  1. In 2019, a study found that residues were present in 59% of 35 conventional milk samples tested, but not present in organic milk.

2. Chlorpyrifos is applied to more than 30 percent of apples, asparagus, walnuts, onions, grapes, broccoli, cherries and cauliflower grown in the U.S., according to the EPA.

peaches contains pesticide chloropyrifos that sabotages your weight loss plans

3. Government tests show the highest residues in the following imported foods:

— Imported peaches from Chile (20 percent of samples tested positive)

— Imported nectarines from Chile (13 percent of samples tested positive)

— Imported bell peppers from Mexico (22 percent of samples tested positive)

— Imported hot peppers from Mexico (15 percent samples tested positive)

Domestic and imported cilantro (27 percent of samples tested positive)

4. Drink filtered water using brands that have a proven track record of removing as much chlorpyrifos as possible.

For more on how to reduce toxins like the pesticide chlorpyrifos and others from your daily life, please see INM’s toxin living series from naturopathic doctors.

  1. How Toxins Cause Disease, from Joe Pizzorno, ND
  2. Five Fantastic & Easy Tips to Detox Your Home and Lower Toxin Exposure
  3. Dr. Christian Gonzalez and the Toxin Tidal Wave
  4. How do Toxins Sabotage Your Health?
  5. Four Ways to Get Firm and Cute by Lowering Firmicutes
Experience the benefits of personalized natural healthcare with a trusted, licensed naturopathic doctor in your area.
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Experience the benefits of personalized natural healthcare with a trusted, licensed naturopathic doctor in your area.
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This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)


Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

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