The human health effects of phthalates (in simple terms – plastics) are not yet fully known but are being studied by several government agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the National Toxicology Program’s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction.
However, doctors in Italy and Serbia suggest that the connection between endrocine/metabolism disruption and phthalates are confirmed.
“The prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus epidemics presents a great health problem worldwide. Beside the changes in diet and decreased physical activity, there is growing interest in endocrine disrupting chemicals that may have effects on these conditions. Among them, the role of certain phthalates and bisphenol A is confirmed.”1
Research into Phthalates exposure and obesity
A research team from Harvard University has added their paper to a new wave of literature acknowledging the health risks of phthalates. Here is the summary highlights of their research.
- Higher exposure to certain phthalates is associated with a diabetes.
- After conducting research on over 2700 individuals looking for urinary phthalate metabolites- the researchers found that participants with Metabolic Syndrome (32 % of the study population) had higher concentrations for all urinary phthalate metabolites.
- Phthalate exposure were associated with an increased odds of Metabolic Syndrome in all men, but not in all women
- When evaluating by menopausal status, pre-menopausal women with higher concentrations of phthalate had close to a 4-fold increased odds of Metabolic Syndrome compared to pre-menopausal women with the lowest concentrations of phthalate.
The researchers concluded that their findings suggest further evaluating the role of phthalate metabolite concentrations prospectively to determine whether these chemicals can alter the risk of Metabolic Syndrome among individuals without the condition.2
Doctors at Mevlana University, in Turkey have announced that they are the first to show that both blood and urinary phthalates increased in proportion to BMI. The results show a strong association between obesity and phthalates.3
In Germany, researchers at University of Leipzig have identified that mice exposed to the phthalate DEHP (commonly used in food packaging) in their drinking water gained a substantial amount of weight. This was particularly true of the female animals.
In their summary discussions the researchers concluded:
- Under certain conditions, phthalates can also emerge from the material and be uptaken into our bodies most prominently by our diet. Phthalates are mainly transferred from the food packaging of fatty products, e.g. cheese or sausages.
The researchers determined that the proportion of unsaturated fatty acids in the blood increased and the glucose metabolism was disrupted under the influence of phthalates. The composition of receptors in the blood also changed causing a disruption in general metabolism.
Here is general information on Phthalates from the United States National Library of Medicine website:
- Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl.
- Phthalates are used in cosmetics and personal care products, including:
- hair spray,
- nail polish,
- and skin moisturizers.
- They are used in consumer products such as:
- flexible plastic and vinyl toys,
- shower curtains,
- vinyl mini-blinds,
- food packaging,
- and plastic wrap.
- Phthalates are also used in:
- wood finishes,
- plastic plumbing pipes,
- medical tubing and fluid bags,
- medical devices,
- building materials,
- and vinyl flooring.
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1 Stojanoska MM, Milosevic N, Milic N, Abenavoli L. The influence of phthalates and bisphenol A on the obesity development and glucose metabolism disorders. Endocrine. 2017 Mar;55(3):666-681. doi: 10.1007/s12020-016-1158-4. Epub 2016 Nov 7.
2 James-Todd TM, Huang T, Seely EW, Saxena AR. The association between phthalates and metabolic syndrome: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001–2010. Environmental Health. 2016;15:52. doi:10.1186/s12940-016-0136-x.
3 Oktar S, Sungur S, Okur R, Yilmaz N, Ustun I, Gokce C. The relationship between phthalates and obesity: serum and urine concentrations of phthalates. Minerva Endocrinol. 2017 Mar;42(1):46-52. doi: 10.23736/S0391-1977.16.02295-1. Epub 2015 May 26.
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