Malpractice News

August 24, 2013

Obesity, diabetes linked with BPA and phthalates

In recent years, BPA and phthalates have been getting bad press. Many products are switching to alternative compounds in their manufacturing process, notably pacifiers and bottles. Now researchers have found further complications associated with phthalates exposure. Reuters Health reported that new research indicates, “Children exposed to two chemicals commonly used in food packaging are more likely to be obese or show signs of diabetes precursors than those with lower exposure.”

BPA found in urine samples 

Scientists found that the phthalate used to soften plastic was measurable in urine samples and was tied to “a higher risk of insulin resistance among teenagers.” BPA, or bisphenol A, is used to line aluminum cans and it has been linked with larger waists and obesity.

Obesity is a common problem these days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in six American children is now obese. Dr. Leonardo Trasande is a pediatrician from New York University and he explained, “Clearly unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are the drivers of this epidemic . . . but increasingly environmental chemicals are being identified as possible contributors.” 

DEHP interferes with insulin

DEHP is a type of phthalate identified to have a link with insulin resistance. It is found in plastic bottles with the recycle number 3 printed on them. In a study of 766 teens between 12 and 19, “just under 15 percent of study participants with the lowest one-third of DEHP levels were insulin resistant, compared to almost 22 percent of those with the highest levels.” 

Cause and effect not proven

Though the data establishes a link between diabetes, obesity, and BPA and phthalates, researchers have not established a definite cause and effect relationship. Eating food packaged in soft plastics doesn’t automatically mean you will gain too much weight or develop obesity, but it does raise your risk. Researchers say one possible explanation for the link is that the types of foods packaged in soft plastics are often highly processed and unhealthy, thus those who have unhealthy eating habits may be more exposed to the identified compounds. 

Regardless, Trasande counsels parents not to buy plastics made using DEHP. “I advise them not to wash plastic containers in the dishwasher. When the plastic is clearly etched or damaged, it’s time to throw it away.”


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