Females exposed to the insecticide DDT while in the womb are more likely to be obese, says a Michigan State University study.
The researchers checked levels of DDE (a breakdown of DDT) in the adult daughters of 250 women who eat fish from Lake Michigan and were recruited for a large study in the early 1970s, United Press International reported.
Compared to daughters with the lowest levels of DDE, those with intermediate levels had an average of 13 pounds more weight, and those with higher levels were more than 20 pounds heavier, said lead author Janet Osuch.
"What we have found for the first time is exposure to certain toxins by eating fish from polluted waters may contribute to the obesity epidemic in women," Osuch said in news release, UPI reported. "These findings not only apply to the offspring of women in our cohort but to any woman who has been exposed to high levels of DDE when she was growing in her mother's womb -- mothers with the highest DDE levels are women who have consumed a lot of fish or high-fat meats."
The findings were published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The U.S. banned DDT in 1973, but the chemical and its by-products persist in the environment, the study reported.