Are phthalates making our children fat?

July 26, 2012
Contemporary Pediatrics Staff
Contemporary Pediatrics Staff

Is it possible that a synthetic compound known as serum di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is contributing to the obesity epidemic among our nation’s children? Find out what the results of 1 study say. More >>

Is it possible that a synthetic compound known as serum di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is contributing to the obesity epidemic among our nation’s children? Although prospective studies are needed to determine a causal link, preliminary research presented at Endo 2012, the Endocrine Society’s 94th annual meeting, June 23-26, Houston, revealed an interesting association.
 
Investigators found that serum DEHP levels were almost double in children who were obese compared with children who were not and that a dose-dependent relationship exists between serum DEHP levels and risk of obesity.

The researchers studied 204 Korean children aged 6 to 13 years, about half of whom were obese. They measured nutrient intake, physical activity, household income, anthropometrics, and body composition and tested fasting glucose, insulin, uric acid, lipid profiles, liver transaminases, and serum DEHP levels.

Data revealed that the geometric mean DEHP serum levels in the children who were obese were almost twice as high as those in the controls who were not obese. Serum DEHP levels also positively correlated with body mass index, serum alanine transaminase, uric acid, and body fat mass. They did not positively correlate with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglyceride level, fasting blood sugar, or fasting insulin.

The investigators also found that the higher the serum DEHP levels, the greater the risk for obesity, after adjusting for age, sex, physical activity, household income, and daily caloric intake.

Phthalates, including DEHP, are synthetic chemicals found in plastic used in personal care items, food packaging, building materials, toys, pacifiers, and medical products. Children are more vulnerable to phthalate exposure than are adults.

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