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Could personal care products raise diabetes risk for women?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers find another link between phthalates and diabetes.

Researchers have again found a link between phthalates in personal care products and diabetes in women. The chemicals are hormone disrupting compounds that are pervasive and found in personal care products like moisturizers, hair sprays, nail polish, soaps, hair sprays and perfume in addition to toys, plastics and an array of other products used in manufacturing.

Higher phthalate levels linked to double risk for diabetes

Research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) found a link between higher levels of phthalates in the body and higher risk of diabetes in women.

Results of a previous study from Swedish researchers found an association between higher phthalate levels in the body and type 2 diabetes among seniors in findings published April, 2012 in the journal Diabetes Care.

For the current study, Tamarra James-Todd, PhD, a researcher in the Division of Women's Health at BWH, analyzed urinary concentrations of phthalates in 2,350 women who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The findings showed women who had high levels of the chemical in the urine were twice as likely to have diabetes, which was specifically linked to the chemicals mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate.

There was a 60 percent higher chance of diabetes among women with higher than average levels of mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate in the urine and a 70% boost in diabetes rates for women with moderately high levels of mono-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate.

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Phthalates are known to interrupt the endocrine system and researchers have been studying their effects in efforts to understand the health impact on humans.

In a statement released by the Endocrine Society, November, 2011, an expert panel called for increased regulation of endocrine disrupting compounds such as BPA, phthalates, pesticides and other environmental toxins that could harm the health of future generations.

The authors wrote, “As endocrinologists, we suggest that The Endocrine Society actively engages in lobbying for regulation seeking to decrease human exposure to the many endocrine-disrupting agents.”

Phthalates have also been linked to childhood obesity, according to findings published January, 2012 in the journal Environmental Research.

The researchers for the current study caution that more studies are needed to show phthalates definitely raise the risk of diabetes in women.

"This is an important first step in exploring the connection between phthalates and diabetes," said Dr. James-Todd. "We know that in addition to being present in personal care products, phthalates also exist in certain types of medical devices and medication that is used to treat diabetes and this could also explain the higher level of phthalates in diabetic women. So overall, more research is needed."

Environmental Health Perspectives
"Urinary Phthalate Metabolite Concentrations and Diabetes among Women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008"
Tamarra James-Todd, et al.
July 13, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile