Phthalates could double risk of diabetes

By Shayna Brouker • Published: July 23rd, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

They’re in that plastic container you use to tote leftovers, the makeup you slather on your face every morning and the candle you burn to waft away any lingering odors. Phthalates (THAL-ates) are found in dozens of common household items we touch every day, but what you don’t know is that they could be increasing your risk for diabetes.

Research from the Uppsala University in Sweden found that exposure to environmental toxins was linked with a doubled risk of developing diabetes. The study, published in Diabetes Care, analyzed blood samples from more than one 1,000 men and women over the age of 65. The results revealed that even at low levels of contamination in the blood, risk begins to rise.

The root of this alarming association is unknown, but researchers think it could have something to do with the toxins’ tendency to disrupt the fat metabolism process. What’s troubling is that phthalates are practically impossible to avoid completely, although many manufacturers are beginning to phase out use of phthalates in their merchandise.

It’s the latest chemical to get a bad rap after bisphenol-A, or B-P-A. B-P-A is a compound commonly used in canned goods, cash register receipts and plastic water bottles that has also been shown to mimic estrogen and interrupt the endocrine system. B-P-A has been linked to breast and prostate cancer in animals, as well as obesity, thyroid problems and neurologic disorders in humans.

In the meantime, researchers offer a few ideas to cut down exposure to B-P-A, phthalates and other environmental toxins. Use fewer plastic products, choose fresh over canned foods whenever possible and microwave food in ceramic or glass instead of plastic. Avoid items that contain perfume, as they often contain phthalates. The good news is that stopping exposure can clear chemicals from the body before permanent damage is done.