Frequently eating out or grabbing something on the go increases your risk of exposure to potentially harmful levels of chemicals called phthalates, according to a new study.
Phthalates are common in food packaging and processing materials such as to-go boxes, sandwich wrappers, and even the rubber gloves used for food handling.
These chemicals have been associated with a wide range of health-problems, particularly affecting hormones.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health and the Milken Institute School of Public Health compared levels of phthalates of people who reported eating out alot to those who preferred to eat at home.
The results were published in the journal Environment International.
“This study suggests food prepared at home is less likely to contain high levels of phthalates, chemicals linked to fertility problems, pregnancy complications, and other health issues,” said Ami Zota, the senior author of the study. “Our findings suggest that dining out may be an important, and previously under-recognized source of exposure to phthalates for the U.S. population.”
The researchers collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2005 and 2014.
There were 10,253 participants in the study who were asked to remember what they ate and where their food came from in the previous 24 hours.
Once the data from the NHANES had been gathered and examined, the researchers made connections between the food that was consumed and the levels of phthalates found in the participants’ urine samples.
The researchers found that those who had eaten out, particularly adolescents, had higher levels of phthalates.
The results also showed that certain foods had higher levels than others in restaurants and fast food places.
To limit your exposure to phthalates, the researchers suggest cooking more meals at home and buying food from the grocery store.
The study is a cause for concern as the researchers say two-thirds of the U.S population eats out every day, and future research is needed in order to find effective ways to remove the risk of phthalate exposure.
Image Credit: The Milken Institute School of Public Health