Are Plastics Making Kids Fat?
Preliminary results from a new study suggest that a phthalate used to soften plastics may increase the risk of childhood obesity. The study involved collecting blood from 204 six to 13 year olds, 105 of whom were obese. After accounting for physical activity and caloric intake, a higher body mass index (BMI) was linked to higher levels of di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) which is found many products people use every day. DEHP likely acts in two ways to increase fat; reducing the potency of the male sex hormone androgen which normally lowers BMI and disrupting normal thyroid function which secretes hormones that affect weight gain. Both hormones affect appetite and how quickly food is broken down. Male fertility, breast development in boys and low birth weights has been tied to phthalates.
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Results from a study involving more than 1,000 seventy year old men and women found that elevated levels of phthalates, found in cosmetics and plastics that people are exposed to everyday, increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Fasting blood samples were screened for glucose and a variety of environmental toxins and a direct link between phthalates and diabetes was observed even when factors such as obesity, physical activity, fats in the blood and smoking were taken into account. The increase in levels did not have to be dramatic to double the risk of developing diabetes. Certain types of phthalates appeared to interfere with the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. More studies will have to be conducted to confirm this link and to understand the underlying biology behind it.