OBELIX, an IVM coordinated EU project
By Juliette Legler
Though the incidence of obesity has grown to epidemic proportions globally, the underlying causes of this disorder are not fully understood. Recent evidence shows that factors influencing the long-term risk of obesity begin very early in life. OBELIX (OBesogenic Endocrine disrupting chemicals: LInking prenatal eXposure to the development of obesity later in life) is a major new EU-funded research project coordinated by IVM. Its main goal is to investigate if early life exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in food plays a role in the development of obesity and related disorders later in life. An endocrine disruptor (ED) is a chemical that may alter the function of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an organism or its offspring. OBELIX will investigate six major classes of EDs found in food, including dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, brominated flame retardants, organochlorine pesticides, phthalates, and perfluorinated compounds. IVM has longstanding experience in the detection of these compounds in the environment, and the assessment of their toxicity.
The main objectives of OBELIX are:
- To assess early life (perinatal) exposure in humans to major classes of EDs in food, using mother-child cohorts from various European regions with different food contaminant exposure patterns;
- To relate early life exposure to EDs with effect biomarkers and health outcome data in children which are related to obesity;
- To perform in vivo hazard characterization of early life exposure to EDs;
- To determine mechanisms of action of obesogenic EDs using analysis of effect biomarkers, gene expression and epigenetic analysis;
- To perform risk assessment of early life exposure to obesogenic ECs in food, by integrating maternal exposure through food, contaminant exposure and health effect data in children, and hazard characterization and mechanistic information from in vivo and in in vitro studies.
IVM’s researcher Dr. Juliette Legler coordinates OBELIX, which started in May 2009 and will run until May 2013. OBELIX uses a multidisciplinary approach that combines epidemiology, toxicology, neonatology, endocrinology, analytical chemistry and risk assessment. The OBELIX project team includes VU University Amsterdam (IVM and Institute for Health Sciences), Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM, NL), Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Ecobaby Foundation (NL), French National Institute for Agricultural Research (Met@risk) and Slovak Medical University .
The project is carried out with financial support from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme.