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Chemicals found in plastics increase the risk for obesity and diabetes in children

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According to recent research published in Pediatrics, the chemicals contained in plastic food packaging and containers are involved in obesity and diabetes. One study suggests that phthalates are associated with insulin resistance in children while  another associates bisphenol A with a high body mass index (BMI). Study author Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor of Pediatrics and Environmental Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, says there is an increasing concerning about the chemicals contained in various plastic products because they might be involved in the epidemic obesity.

He also notes that their studies confirm these concerns. The researchers examined 766 children ages 12 to 19 years and assessed insulin resistance and urinary levels of phthalates. Previous studies have shown that there is an association between exposure to phthalates and insulin resistance in both humans and animals. Phthalates are chemicals that are used in the manufacture of plastic objects and is believed to disrupt the endocrine system. This is one of the reasons why these products are banned in babies.

The study led by researchers at NYU School of Medicine has shown that insulin resistance in children increases with the level of di-2-ethylhexylphthalate, or DEHP, a type of phthalate, and this association has been made taking into account other risk factors for diabetes and other variables such as caloric intake or BMI. Trasande says that there are studies proving that these chemicals affect our response to glucose. In other words, these chemicals influence insulin release by several mechanisms and one of the mechanisms of interest is the genetic mechanism.


The other study, led by Dr. Donna Eng and colleagues at the University of Michigan, reveals that higher levels of bisphenol A  in urine are associated with an increased risk of obesity. BPA, which is used in a wide range of plastic products: aluminum cans, bottles, etc., has been incriminated to cause many health problems, so its use was banned in baby bottles and other packaging used in babies.

The study was conducted on 3,300 children aged between 6 and 18 years and it was found that those who had high levels of BPA had increased BMI. Dr. Hugh Taylor, chair of the Yale School of Medicine’s department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, noted that children are the most vulnerable to these chemicals. However, there are authors who say that the study has several limitations because one cannot used only the urinary BPA levels to assess the impact of exposure to chemicals.