Plastics chemical linked to obesity in kids

June 25, 2012 By Barbara Bronson Gray, HealthDay Reporter
Plastics chemical linked to obesity in kids
Study suggests phthalates may alter fat metabolism, influence weight

(HealthDay) -- It's hard to imagine a pacifier or a rubber ducky making your child fat.

But new research suggests that chemicals called phthalates, which are found in the plastics that pacifiers and toys are typically made of, may be linked to higher rates of obesity in children.

The chemical, called di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), is suspected of being able to alter biological functions involved in fat metabolism. In the study, children with the highest DEHP levels had nearly five times the chance of being obese compared with those who had the lowest DEHP levels.

How could a chemical used to soften plastics trigger fat development in a child?

"It may trigger the master regulator of fat creation and ," explained study co-author Dr. Mi-Jung Park, a pediatric endocrinologist and professor at Inje University College of Medicine, in Seoul, South Korea.

DEHP may do two different things that increase fat development, Park said. It may reduce the effect of androgen -- a -- which lowers body-mass index (BMI). It may also disrupt , which plays a role in weight gain. Interfering with androgen or can affect appetite or a person's rate of metabolizing food, she explained.

Other studies have linked phthalates to breast growth in boys, reproductive problems in men and .

The researchers measured blood levels of DEHP in 204 children ranging from 6 to 13 years old; 105 were considered obese and 99 were of normal weight.

Children with a higher BMI, a measurement of body fat, had higher DEHP levels. The increased risk of obesity with elevated DEHP levels was not related to the amount of physical activity they got or their .

The study, scheduled for presentation Saturday at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in Houston, did not demonstrate a between blood levels of DEHP and obesity.

Park said parents should understand that phthalates are virtually everywhere -- in food, water, plastic bags and packaging wraps, cosmetics, lotions, shampoo and toys. Pregnant women, premature infants and young children may be particularly sensitive to the chemical, she said. "Putting hot water or hot food into a plastic container may be dangerous," she added.

Johanna Congleton, senior scientist and toxicologist at the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C., recommends avoiding exposure to phthalates. "It's a good precautionary measure, and consumer product manufacturers should phase out the use of such compounds," she said.

Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Explore further: Large human study links phthalates, BPA and thyroid hormone levels

More information: For more on phthalates, go to the Environmental Working Group.


Related Stories

Large human study links phthalates, BPA and thyroid hormone levels

July 11, 2011
A link between chemicals called phthalates and thyroid hormone levels was confirmed by the University of Michigan in the first large-scale and nationally representative study of phthalates and BPA in relation to thyroid function ...

Phthalates in PVC floors taken up by the body in infants

May 23, 2012
A new study at Karlstad University in Sweden shows that phthalates from PVC flooring materials is taken up by our bodies. Phthalates are substances suspected to cause asthma and allergies, as well as other chronic diseases ...

New testing methods for contaminated sports drinks from Taiwan

July 29, 2011
The European Commission's Joint Research Centre has developed three new methods to detect an illegal clouding agent which can be found in sports drinks imported from Taiwan.

Exposure to chemical found in personal care products may contribute to childhood obesity

January 20, 2012
Researchers from the Children's Environmental Health Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York have found an association between exposure to the chemical group known as phthalates and obesity in young children ...

Recommended for you

Study finds 90 percent of American men overfat

July 24, 2017
Does your waist measure more than half your height?

Are sugary drink interventions changing people's behaviour?

July 19, 2017
An evaluation of efforts designed to reduce how many sugary drinks we consume shows some success in changing younger people's habits but warns they cannot be the only way to cut consumption.

Young adult obesity: A neglected, yet essential focus to reverse the obesity epidemic

July 18, 2017
The overall burden of the U.S. obesity epidemic continues to require new thinking. Prevention of obesity in young adults, while largely ignored as a target for prevention and study, will be critical to reversing the epidemic, ...

Weight gain from early to middle adulthood may increase risk of major chronic diseases

July 18, 2017
Cumulative weight gain over the course of early and middle adulthood may increase health risks later in life, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that, compared ...

Study finds children carry implicit bias towards peers who are overweight

June 23, 2017
Even children as young as 9 years old can carry a prejudice against their peers who are overweight, according to a new study led by Duke Health researchers. They might not even realize they feel this way.

Mother's obesity boosts risk for major birth defects: study

June 15, 2017
Children of obese women are more likely to be afflicted by major birth defects, including malformations of the heart and genitals, according to a study published on Thursday.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ziphead
not rated yet Jun 25, 2012
Time to spit the dummy.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.