Intriguing news on the environment and the risk factors in diabetes. A Swedish study finds that high blood levels of phthalates, a chemical found in many everyday products has the potential to double the risk of type 2 diabetes for older people.
Working to support a standing hypothesis that chemicals in the environment can contribute to developing diabetes, the current research appears to have done just that. Most of us come into contact with phthalates every day according to study lead Monica Lind, an associate professor of environmental medicine at Uppsala University.
To conduct the research the team gathered information on over 1,000 Swedish men and women, aged 70 years old. The team took measurements of subjects’ blood sugar, insulin levels and the levels of toxins that are a part of the breakdown on phthalates.
It came as no surprise to find subjects who were overweight and had high cholesterol levels had a higher diabetes risk. But the team also saw a link between blood levels of a number of phthalates and type 2 diabetes, and this held even after accounting for smoking status, exercise, cholesterol numbers and obesity. Phthalates retained their association with type 2 diabetes risk.
For those who had high phthalates, the risk of diabetes was almost twice that compared to those with lower levels of the chemical in their blood. Some of the phthalates were also associated with disrupted production of insulin, the hormone that delivers blood sugar to body cells for energy. When you don’t have insulin, or don’t have enough, there’s too much sugar in the blood and this condition starts diabetes on its way.
Even at what you might think are low levels of these chemicals, the risk of diabetes goes up according to the study findings.
Phthalates are used in all kinds of things. Vinyl flooring and wallpapers, detergents, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, lubricating oils, as well as medical supplies like blood bags and tubes according to the Food and Drug Administration.
You’ll also find these substances in many of the personal care items you use everyday – shampoos, hair sprays, some soaps and nail polishes. At present the FDA doesn’t have compelling evidence that phthalates pose a safety risk.
You should also know that in the U.S., no company is required to test a chemical for long-term health effects before using it in a product. This means things get on the market before anyone is aware of a potential danger. Lind would like to see the health effects of such chemicals tested before they get into a consumer product.
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A Common Plastic Chemical Ups Diabetes Risk… Continued…
The take home message of the work, especially if you’re concerned about diabetes is to try to cut down on the plastics you use, and select personal care products that are free of scent. The trouble is, the print on ingredients labels can be way too small too read – other products don’t have labels even though required to by law.
Nonetheless, here are some of the chemical names to watch for:
- mono-methyl phthalate (MMP)
- mono-ethyl phthalate (MEP)
- mono-isobutyl phthalate (MiBP)
- dimethylphthalate (DMP)
- diethyl phthalate (DEP)
- di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP)
Before we can be sure that phthalates are really one of the risk factors in diabetes, more research will be needed. Experts will also want to know more about the biological mechanisms that are involved in such connections.