Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers reviewed data from 1999 to 2002, the most recent years that phthalates levels were available. Of the adult men available in NHANES, 1,451 had data on phthalate exposures, obesity and waist circumference. Of these men, 651 also had fasting glucose and insulin levels required to calculate insulin resistance.
The analysis found that, as expected, several phthalate metabolites showed a positive correlation with abdominal obesity. Indeed, men with the highest levels of phthalates in their urine had more belly fat and insulin resistance. Researchers adjusted for other factors that could influence the results, such as the mens’ age, race, food intake, physical activity levels and smoking.
The phthalate family of chemicals is used in a variety of products from cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, lotions, lubricants, paint, pesticides, and plastics. Phthalates soften plastic tubing, PVC, and are also used in the coating of some timed-release medicines.
More than 75 percent of the United States population has measurable levels of several phthalates in their urine, according to the study.
"Unfortunately, there’s still a lot to learn about phthalates," Stahlhut said. "The more difficult issue is what combinations of common low-dose chemical exposures might be contributing to these problems."
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