Posted on Apr 03, 2018, 5 p.m.
A study has found that dining out is associated with increased exposure to harmful phthalate chemicals linked to a long list of health issues.
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in packing and processing materials which are known to disrupt human hormones and are linked to a long list of health problems. This study suggest that eating meals prepared and cooked at home is less likely to contain high levels of phthalates which are linked to pregnancy complications, fertility problems, as well as other health issues; and suggests that dining out may be an under recognized source of exposure to phthalates.
This is the first study of its kind known to the researchers to compare phthalate exposure in people who reported dining out to those who enjoyed home cooking. Individuals who reported consuming more fast food, cafeteria, and restaurant meals had phthalate levels that were close to 35% higher as compared to home cooked meals.
10,253 individuals participated in this study who stated where and what they had ate over the previous 24 hours and had their levels of phthalate break down products analyzed that were found in each participant urine sample. 61% of the participants had reported dining out in the 24 hour time frame. In addition researchers found that association between phthalate exposure and dining out was significant regardless of age group with the magnitude being highest in teenagers; Adolescents who consumed higher levels of fast foods and meals out of home had levels of phthalates that were 55% higher; Certain foods were associated with higher phthalate levels such as sandwiches and cheeseburgers which were 30% higher in phthalate levels for all age groups, but only if they were purchased dining out. Participants who consumed the most fast foods were 40% higher than those who rarely ate such foods.
This study looked broadly at dining out, not just specifically at fast foods, and found that it could be significantly associated with increased exposure to phthalates, according to the researchers who say it is troubling as nearly two thirds of the population eats out of home daily. Researchers used cumulative phthalate exposure method to assess real world exposure to multiple phthalates which takes into account that some phthalates are more toxic than others.
A wide range of products contain phthalates which includes gloves used in food handling, take home boxes, food processing equipment, items used in restaurant meal prep, fast foods and cafeteria meals. Prior researchers indicates these chemicals can by leached into food stuffs from plastic containers or food wrappings, suggesting consumers who can’t get enough of dining out are getting an additional side of phthalates along with their meals.
One way to limit phthalate exposure is enjoying more home prepared meals, which can be just a win win situation as they are also a good way to decrease salt, unhealthy fats, and sugar. Phthalate contamination of the food supply may represent a larger health problem which should be addressed to reduce human exposure to these harmful chemicals.
Materials provided by George Washington University.
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Julia Varshavsky et al. Dietary sources of cumulative phthalates exposure among the U.S. general population in NHANES 2005-2014. Environment International, 2018