Fast food packaging may contribute to weight gain

A new study could have you looking at your breakfast sandwiches and hamburgers in a new light.

The Harvard University study found it might not be just the food that is causing weight gain, but the wrapper itself.

The research comes from Harvard's School of Public Health, and it found a correlation between weight gain and a chemical called perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAs. That chemical is found in hundreds of everyday items, like fast food wrappers.

"The chemicals can transfer from the packaging to the food," Dr. Qi Sun, the researcher behind the project, told Boston 25 News.

PFAs are used to make those food wrappers grease-resistant. But once in the wrapper, the chemical can get transferred into your food. When you eat the food, it then gets transferred into your bloodstream.

Sun's research found those chemicals can hang around in your body for years and hurt your metabolism, leading to weight gain. The research team found it is worse in women, because the PFAs interact with estrogen in a way scientists are still researching.

PFAs are also used in hundreds of other products that repel oil and water, and that people touch every day, like carpeting, nonstick cookware, pizza boxes and even winter coats.

"You can do things that reduce the exposure to those chemicals," Dr. Sun said.

Experts recommend washing your hands before eating. You are also advised to avoid products that say "non-stick" or "stain-resistant." A third recommendation is to drink purified water.

Dr. Sun hopes to eventually testify before Congress to help regulate the chemical. Some companies in the food-service industry are already trying to use different wrappers and containers to stop this chemical contamination.