THURSDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- High blood levels of chemicals called phthalates, which are found in soaps, lotions, plastics and toys, may double the risk for type 2 diabetes among older adults, Swedish researchers say.
"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 in the section for occupational and 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," she added.
The study's implications "must be to cut down on plastics and choose self-care products without perfumes," Lind said.
But the research does not prove cause and effect. To find out whether phthalates (pronounced THAL ates) truly are risk factors for diabetes, further studies are needed that show similar associations, she said.
"Experimental studies are also needed regarding what biological mechanisms might underlie these connections," Lind stressed.
The report was published online April 12 and in the June print edition of Diabetes Care.
For the study, Lind's team collected data on more than 1,000 Swedish men and women, age 70, who took part in the Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors Study.
The researchers measured the participants' blood sugar, insulin levels and levels of toxins from the breakdown of phthalates.
As expected, they found diabetes was more common among those who were overweight and had high cholesterol.
And they also found an association between blood levels of some phthalates and diabetes. That association remained even after taking into account obesity, cholesterol, smoking and exerci
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