Diabetes Risk From Cosmetics And Food Packaging
John Neumann for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
According to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers found a possible connection between compounds used in the manufacture of perfumes, scented lotions, food packaging and diabetes, especially in women. Hidden in those products is a type of chemical called phthalates. Most people in the United States are exposed to phthalates, and levels tend to be higher in women than men.
Elizabeth Landau of CNN reports that, although they did not conclusively prove that the chemicals cause diabetes, the researchers did find an association. The diabetes risk was twice as high in those with the highest levels of certain phthalates, compared with women with the lowest levels, the study concluded.
Looking at the data in a different way, there would be about 40 extra diabetes cases per 1,000 when women with high levels are compared to women with low levels. So what explains this association?
One idea is that phthalates bind to cells in the body that manage blood-glucose metabolism and fat cell development.
Dr. Tamarra James-Todd, associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston explained to Landau: “Because they can bind to natural cell receptors, they could alter normal function.”
The study does not rule out that those with diabetes may have higher phthalate levels because of their use of certain medical devices and medications, which contain these chemicals. But the researchers did a sub-study on women without diabetes to get at this issue.
Non-diabetic women with higher levels of pthalates tended to have higher blood glucose levels. “Both of those things are precursors of diabetes,” James-Todd added.
Researchers analyzed data on 2,350 women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who self-reported whether they had diabetes and gave urine samples that were examined for the presence of phthalates.
The study is cross-sectional, meaning questions about phthalate levels and diabetes status were not collected at the same point in time. Future research could follow a group of people who don’t have diabetes, measure pthalate levels and see whether the chemicals are associated with developing diabetes long term.
Companies are not required to disclose whether there are phthalates in products, but almost anything that contains “fragrance” has these chemicals, James-Todd said.
More products are emerging with labels that say “phthalate-free,” but the packaging could still be full of them. “There’s not much we can do as consumers,” she said. “Hopefully, these findings will spur additional research.”