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Common Household Chemical May Double Diabetes Risk

Common Household Chemical May Double Diabetes Risk

A new study published by the American Diabetes Association found that exposure to phthalates may increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes in seniors.

Phthalates are used as softening agents in plastics, and as carriers of perfumes in cosmetics and personal care products. They are commonly used in makeup, perfume, hairspray, face cream, scented candles, and solid air freshener, among other products.

Researchers at Uppsala University analyzed blood samples from 1,000 70-year-old men and women to test for environmental toxins and measure fasting blood sugar. They found that individuals with higher levels of certain types of phthalates were more likely to have diabetes, even after adjusting for other factors including smoking, exercise, cholesterol and obesity. The risk for type 2 diabetes doubled even with modest increases in phthalate levels in the blood.

The researchers believe certain phthalates may even disrupt the production of insulin in the pancreas. Thus, the study also found an association between the presence of phthalates in the blood and various markers of insulin resistance.

One of the study’s researchers was quoted: “Although our results need to be confirmed in more studies, they do support the hypothesis that certain environmental chemicals can contribute to the development of diabetes.”

Jill Stein, MD, who reviewed the study for WebMD, made the important observation: “This study adds to a very powerful growing body of evidence that implicates these endocrine-disrupting chemicals in very pervasive diseases.”

Some tips to reduce your exposure to phthalates and other harmful chemicals include:

  • Choose fresh rather than canned or packaged foods whenever possible. One study found that limiting intake of packaged foods can reduce levels of BPA in the body by 66 percent, and levels of phthalates by 56 percent.
  • Read the label on personal care products and avoid those containing phthalates. Common names in ingredient lists include DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) and DMP (dimethyl phthalate).
  • Opt for fragrance-free or unscented personal care products and cosmetics.
  • Avoid plastics with recycling codes 3 and 7. These types of plastics are more likely to contain BPA or phthalates than those labeled with 1, 2, or 5.

Image Credit: Frankenstein_/Flickr

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