Plastics Chemicals May Boost Kids’ Risk for Obesity, Diabetes

Two new studies indicate that chemicals in plastic wrap for food and plastic food containers may contribute to childhood diabetes and obesity.

The first study points the finger at phthalates as likely to increase insulin resistance in children.  The second study identifies bisphenol A (BPA) with enlarged waistlines and high BMI (Body Mass Index).  Both indictments appear in the August online edition of Pediatrics magazine, which will be out in print in September.

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

766 children took part in the historic study, which targeted at-risk ages 12 through 19.  Trasande reviewed insulin levels and urine levels, building on prior work that indicates phthalate has a detrimental effect on the level of insulin in both animals and humans.

Phthalates are chemicals produced as a by-product of petroleum refining, used to make plastic less brittle and liable to crack.  When used in vinyl products they are held to be responsible for disrupting endocrine.  This has prodded manufacturers to eliminate the chemical from baby gear such as teething rings and formula bottles.

Trasande’s work also confirmed what researchers had feared all along; namely that a phthalate derivative called di-2- ethylhexylphthalate, or DEHP, is a chief culprit in insulin resistance among children, even taking into account other moderating factors such as BMI, the intake of calories, and other diabetic  warning signs.