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These 2 Chemicals in Tupperware Could Cause Diabetes and Make You Fat

By on August 20, 2013
If you’ve ever wrapped a sandwich in a plastic food wrap or given your child a lunch in a container for school, research says you could be increasing their risk for diabetes and obesity–but the food here isn’t to blame.

Instead, what is to blame are phthalates, chemicals used in plastic containers and food wraps to improve flexibility.

“There is increasing concern that environmental chemicals might be independent contributors to childhood diseases related to the obesity epidemic,” says Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, who also contributed to the study. “Our research adds to these growing concerns.”

Trasande and his group of researchers first made the connection when their reviewed the urinary levels of phthalates and insulin resistance among children between the ages of 12 to 19. Previous research found that exposure to this chemical increased insulin resistance in animals–but its effects on humans weren’t clear. But by the end of the study, they had their answer: Exposure to a certain type of phthalate, called, di-2-ethylhexylphthalate, or DEHP, increased a child’s risk for insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

“There are lab studies suggesting these chemicals can influence how our bodies respond to glucose,” says Trasande. “In particular, they are thought to influence genes that regulate release of insulin. There are other potential mechanisms, but that is the main mechanism of concern.”

In another study led to Dr. Donna Eng from the University of Michigan, they found that another substance found in plastic, called BPA, increased a child’s risk for obesity. In that study, they reviewed the health data of over 3,000 kids between the ages of 6 and 18, and found that those with high levels of body fat also had high BPA levels.

However, other researchers have criticized the study and say the types of food associated with the use of plastic wrapping containing BPA may increase a child’s obesity risk–typically processed or junk foods.

“It’s probably more about the type of diet these kids are eating,” says Dr. Hugh Taylor, chair of the Yale School of Medicine’s department of gynecology, obstetrics, and reproductive services. “A move toward healthier natural food is always a good idea, not just because of the elimination of BPA and phthalates but for all the other health benefits. If we think about more common-sense eating of healthy foods that aren’t packaged in a way that would introduce BPA and phthalates, we would be so much better off.”

In the meanwhile, Trasande recommends avoiding plastic containers labeled with the recycling numbers 3, 6, or 7, numbers that indicate phthalates are present. Better yet, eschewing plastic containers for something more natural–such as a paper bag–may be a solution for packing a school or work lunch.

“I also advise families not to microwave plastics, hand wash plastic containers, and throw away plastic containers where there is etching or other damage to them,” says Trasande.

Readers: Are you concerned about the use of plastic used to store food items? Why or why not?

Source:
Plastic Increases Risk of Obesity, DiabetesHealthDay.com

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