A type of chemical found in cosmetics, plastics and other products, called phthalates, could raise the risk of developing diabetes among seniors.
Even at a modest increase in circulating phthalate levels, the risk of diabetes is doubled, according to a study from Uppsala University in Sweden.
This study appears in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.
Phthalates are used in, among other things, cosmetics, self-care products, solid air fresheners, and scented candles.
“Phthalates are found in a wide variety of products including vinyl upholstery, shower curtains, food containers and wrappers, toys, floor tiles, lubricants, sealers, and adhesives Beyond their use in PVC resins, phthalates can be found in cosmetics such as perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, hair spray, and liquid soap and as an inert ingredient in pesticides.” note Ruthann A. Rudel and Laura J. Perovich in their paper “Endocrine disrupting chemicals in indoor and outdoor air”
“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,” says Monica Lind, PhD, associate professor of environmental medicine at Uppsala University.
Together with Lars Lind, MD, professor of medicine at Uppsala University, she has analyzed new information from the so-called PIVUS study, which covers more than 1,000 70-year-old women and men in Uppsala.
In a physical examination participants were examined for fasting blood sugar and various insulin measures. They submitted blood samples for analysis of various environmental toxins, including several substances formed when the body breaks down so-called phthalates. Most people come into daily contact with phthalates as they are used a softening agents in plastics and as carriers of perfumes in cosmetics and self-care products.
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As expected, diabetes was more common among participants who were overweight and had high blood lipids. But the researchers also found a connection between blood levels of some of the phthalates and increased prevalence of diabetes.
Individuals with elevated phthalate levels had roughly twice the risk of developing diabetes compared with those with lower levels. They also found that certain phthalates were associated with disrupted insulin production in the pancreas.
“However, to find out whether phthalates truly are risk factors for diabetes, further studies are needed that show similar associations. Today, besides the present study, there is only one small study of Mexican women.” says Monica Lind.
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Diabetes Care published ahead of print April 12, 2012, doi:10.2337/dc11-2396, “Circulating levels of phthalate metabolites are associated with prevalent diabetes in the elderly” Monica Lind, Björn Zethelius, and Lars Lind. Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
Atmos Environ. 2009 Jan 1;43(1):170-181. “Endocrine disrupting chemicals in indoor and outdoor air.” Rudel RA, Perovich LJ. Silent Spring Institute, 29 Crafts Street, Newton, MA 02458.