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Apr 18, 2012

Exposure to Phthalates Tied to Diabetes

According to a Swedish study recently published online in Diabetes Care, common chemicals known as phthalates are linked with the development of diabetes in older adults.  Phthalates are found in numerous products of our modern world, including plastics, cosmetic products, some medications, and even certain types of medical equipment.

The study population involved 1016 people who were 70 years and older.  Researchers examined the participants’ medical histories, exercise habits, smoking habits, and educational background.  They also took blood samples, analyzing both lipid and glucose levels.  Out of all the participants, 119 had diabetes while 88 had a history of diabetes that averaged nearly 9 years.  Four of the participants had diabetes for over 20 years.  (In this study, diabetes was defined as having a fasting blood glucose result of more than 7.0 mmol/L).      

After analyzing serum levels of phthalate metabolites, the researchers noticed that in almost all (96%) of the individuals with diabetes, 4 of 10 phthalate metabolites were detected.  These include mono (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, monoethyl phthalate (MEP), monoisobutyl phthalate (MiBP), and monomethyl phthalate (MMP).  These metabolites are frequent ingredients found in personal care products.

Three of the phthalate metabolites studied by the researchers were linked with a 25-30% higher diabetes risk.  "Although our results need to be confirmed in more studies, they do support the hypothesis that certain environmental chemicals can contribute to the development of diabetes," according to Dr. Monica Lind.

Dr. Shana McQueen