Chemicals in everyday products may be increasing the risk of obesity
According to a new study from the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, exposure to common chemicals called phthalates may contribute to the development of metabolic disorders. The researchers have discovered a link between levels of phthalate exposure and markers of impaired liver function, which indicate an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Phthalates are additives that are often used in the production of plastics, with detectable traces found in everyday items including milk, bottled water, instant coffee, perfume, toys, shampoo, and food packaging.
Previous studies have found that endocrine-disrupting chemicals can cause an increased risk of obesity, as well as serious damage to fertility and development. The current study is the first of its kind to investigate how phthalate exposure affects obesity and metabolism.
A team led by Professor Milica Medic-Stojanoska compared the levels of phthalate absorbed by people with their body weight, type 2 diabetes incidence, and markers of impaired liver and metabolic function.
The study revealed that higher exposure to phthalates was associated with increased markers of liver damage, insulin resistance, and cholesterol in people with obesity and diabetes. The research indicates that more action is needed to reduce the public’s exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals.
“Although a small association study, these findings suggest that not only do phthalates alter metabolism to increase the risk of obesity and diabetes but that they are also causing toxic damage to the liver,” said Professor Medic-Stojanoska.
“We need to inform people about the potential adverse effects of endocrine disruptors on their health and look at ways to minimise our contact with these harmful chemicals.”
The research will be presented at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting, ECE 2019.