Association of phthalates with obesity and insulin resistance

Concentrations of urinary phthalate metabolites are associated with increased waist circumference and insulin resistance in adult U.S. males.

BACKGROUND:

Phthalates impair rodent testicular function and have been associated with anti-androgenic effects in humans, including decreased testosterone levels. Low testosterone in adult human males has been associated with increased prevalence of obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
OBJECTIVES:

Our objective in this study was to investigate phthalate exposure and its associations with abdominal obesity and insulin resistance….

RESULTS:

In model 1, four metabolites were associated with increased waist circumference (MBzP, MEHHP, MEOHP, and MEP; p-values In this national cross-section of U.S. men, concentrations of several prevalent phthalate metabolites showed statistically significant correlations with abdominal obesity and insulin resistance. If confirmed by longitudinal studies, our findings would suggest that exposure to these phthalates may contribute to the population burden of obesity, insulin resistance, and related clinical disorders.

Phthalates are chemicals used as plasticizers, which is exactly what it sounds like: they’re found in plastics. NYT had an article recently on the association of phthalates with harm to male reproductive function. The good news is that phthalates can be eliminated from the body relatively quickly merely by avoiding the intake of them.

“The W.H.O. called them ‘pseudopersistent’ in one report,” Dr. Woodruff said, because continued exposure keeps phthalates in the body. But here’s the silver lining: the transient nature of these compounds also means that consumers can take fairly simple measures to reduce their phthalate levels.

One is to read the labels on cosmetics and other personal care products and to choose those without phthalates. Another is to be cautious with plastic food containers, and to avoid using them to heat food and drink, as the phthalates in them may get transferred to what you consume.

“These compounds leach from plastics,” Dr. Buck Louis said. “You can switch to glass for drinking. You can cook your frozen dinners on paper plates.”

Studies have shown that these kinds of actions do make a difference; experiments have found measurably lower levels within several days in people who make these changes.

“Lifestyle has an important place here,” said Dr. Buck Louis.

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