A new study of more than 10,000 people has found that those who had recently eaten out or consumed takeaway had 35 percent higher levels of phthalates in their urine, compared to people who’d eaten food from a supermarket.
Researchers asked participants to answer detailed questions about their diet in the previous 24 hours and provided a urinary sample that was analysed for two phthalates in particular – DEHP and DiNP.
The study found that those who consumed the most fast food had 23.8 percent higher levels of the breakdown product for DEHP in their urine sample, and nearly 40 percent higher levels of DiNP metabolites. Researchers also discovered that grain and meat items were the biggest factors in phthalate exposure.
Phthalates are a class of industrial chemical known as endocrine disruptors, used in food packaging and processing materials. Research has suggested that they can leach into food and they've been linked with a long list of health problems including asthma, certain cancers, obesity, neurodevelopment issues, behavioural issues, type 2 diabetes, damage to reproductive systems, pregnancy complications and fertility issues.
“Most of the phthalates that are of most concern from a health perspective are plasticisers; they’re added to make plastics soft,” a leading author of the study, Assistant Professor Ami Zota of George Washington University, told CNN.
“They’re added to food packaging, they can be in food handling gloves, and they can be found in food tubing.”
Fortunately, phthalates only stay in your system for about a day so changing your eating habits can help.
“People concerned about this issue can’t go wrong by eating more fruits and vegetables and less fast food,” Zota said. “A diet filled with whole foods offers a variety of health benefits that go far beyond the question of phthalates."