Are Phthalates Making us Fat?

In the April/May 2007 issue of Plenty, you’ll find an article (“Plastic Oh-No” by Emily Gertz) on phthalates, common chemicals found in all kinds of plastic goods, from shower curtains to baby toys and beyond. For a few years now, scientists have suspected that these hard-to-pronounce chemicals are toxic, and recent studies suggest that they could cause a host of reproductive problems in humans.

But according to a new study, phthalates could be to blame for another serious health problem: obesity. The theory behind the study, according to a Washington Post article, has to do with testosterone:

This study follows up on other studies that correlated abnormal sperm counts and low testosterone levels with phthalates. Men with low testosterone levels develop abdominal obesity and insulin resistance, so these authors speculated that phthalates might be behind the depressed testosterone levels.

"That's the missing link, testosterone as a [possible] link between phthalates and obesity," Stahlhut said.

Almost 1,500 men participated in the study, and researchers found that those with high levels of phthalates in their urine also had high levels of abdominal fat and insulin resistance.

This is one of the first studies of its kind, and it’s too soon to tell whether the results really do prove the hypothesis. But in case they do, someone should make a forward-thinking business move and secure a book deal. Move over, Atkins, and make room for the Low-Phthalates Diet.


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