Phthalates linked to increased risk of diabetes in elderly

Phthalates found in plastics and cosmetics may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in the elderly, according to research published in the journal Diabetes Care.

Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden followed 1,016 seniors aged 70 years old, 114 of whom had type 2 diabetes.

Four types of phthalate metabolites were found in almost all the participants. Of those, scientists found that high levels of the metabolites monomethyl phthalate, monoisobutyl phthalate and monoethyl phthalate were associated with an increased prevalence of diabetes.

Overall, those with high levels of these metabolites were about twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes than others in the study.

The scientists also discovered that monoisobutyl phthalate was primarily associated with poor insulin secretion. Monoethyl phthalate and monomethyl phthalate were mainly associated with insulin resistance.

The researchers reached these findings after adjusting for sex, body mass index, serum cholesterol and triglycerides, education level, smoking habits and exercise habits.

"Plasticizers”
Also called “plasticizers,” phthalates are industrial chemicals used in hundreds of consumer products. They are used as solvents or to make plastics more resilient and flexible.

Phthalates help nail polishes reduce cracking by making them less brittle and hair sprays avoid stiffness by forming a flexible film on the hair, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

The chemicals are found in a wide array of products such as toys, food packaging, hoses, vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

These chemicals are known to disrupt the endocrine system as well. They have been shown to cause testicular atrophy, reduced sperm count, and structural abnormalities in the reproductive systems of male test animals, according to the EWG. Other studies link phthalates to liver cancer.

The US Environmental Protection Agency regulates phthalates as water and air pollutants. In July 2008, the US Congress banned six phthalates from children's toys and cosmetics.

The EWG published a Parents Buying Guide in 2007 to help parents find children's personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

Sources: Diabetes Care, Environmental Working Group, US Food and Drug Administration

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