Chemicals Found in Common Plastics May Increase Diabetes Risk

Chemicals Found in Common Plastics May Increase Diabetes RiskA new study suggests high blood levels of certain chemicals called phthalates, which are typically found in soaps, lotions, plastics and toys, could double the risk for type 2 diabetes in older adults, HealthDay reports.

“Our study supports the hypothesis that certain environmental chemicals can contribute to the development of diabetes,” said lead researcher Monica Lind, an associate professor of environmental medicine at Uppsala University. “Most people come into daily contact with phthalates as they are used as softening agents in everyday plastics and as carriers of perfumes in cosmetics and self-care products.”

Lind added that the Swedish study suggests people “must cut down on plastics,” and choose self care products that are free of these chemicals. The study was published in an April issue of Diabetes Care.

In the study, the team of researchers compiled information on more than 1,000 Swedish men and women who were 70 years old that took part in the Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors Study. Lind and her associates measured blood sugar, insulin levels and levels of toxic substances from the breakdown of phthalates in all participants, and found – as expected – that diabetes was more prevalent in patients who were overweight or had higher cholesterol.

But the researchers also found a link between blood levels of certain phthalates and diabetes. The association remained even after the experts accounted for obesity, cholesterol, smoking and differences in exercise regimen.

When phthalates were elevated in the blood stream, the researchers determined the risk of diabetes was twice as high as those who did not have such high levels of the chemical in their blood. Also, some phthalates were associated with disrupted insulin production.

“Even at relatively low levels of phthalate in the blood, the risk of getting diabetes begins to rise,” Lind added.

These chemicals have also been linked to breast growth in younger boys and reproductive issues in men, which may be caused by a disruption in estrogen.

According to the Environmental Working Group, phthalates are used in nearly all modern plastic products, including food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, lubricants, adhesives, nail polish and shampoo.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control’s National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals also found that phthalates could be linked to liver cancer. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency lists phthalates as water and air pollutants.