According to a new study, dining out at restaurants increases a chemical in your body called phthalates (said “thal-8s”) which has been linked to degraded sperm, obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and malformations of the penis. And this whole time you thought it was the french fries making you fat. Phthalates are used to make plastics soft and durable and they are in everything from toys, fragrances, shower curtains and nail polish. So how do they end up in restaurant food? Well they can leach into food from the processing, packaging and handling before it’s served. And just like a toddler can take a bite out of your hamburger and leave snot behind, chemicals like phthalates can leach their slime into your food as well.
The Phthalate Study
Researchers at George Washington University, University of California Berkeley & University of California San Francisco lead a study together analyzing data from 10,253 participants. The data they used was collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2005 and 2014. The findings were very relevant to anyone who is looking to avoid hormone disrupting chemicals.
- People who ate often at restaurants, cafeterias and fast food restaurants often had 35 percent more phthalates in their body
- Teenagers who ate at restaurants had 55 percent more phthalates in their body than teenagers that ate at home instead
- Two thirds of the people in the US eat something outside the home daily
- Children had the highest concentration of phthalate levels than any other group studied
Participants were asked to recall what they ate in a food diary over the previous 24 hours. They were then given urine tests to look at phthalate biomarkers. 61% of the group reported dining out the previous day. The association between phthalate levels and dining out was significant in all categories, but especially with teenagers. The findings were then reported in the Journal of Environment International.
Why This is Important to Families
This study is actually very good news for people looking to reduce the amount of hormone disrupting chemicals in their lives. It suggests that a large amount of phthalates can be reduced simply by cooking meals at home instead of eating at restaurants.
Phthalates are a dangerous chemical linked all sorts of bad things you don’t want, but they are especially problematic for young boys and babies in utero. Many phthalates interfere with the production of the male sex hormone, testosterone, which can cause irreversible effects on male reproduction, including degrading sperm quality, increasing the likelihood that babies are born with malformations of the penis, and exasperating behavioral issues in children like ADHD.
To put things into perspective, independent scientists have discovered recently that male sperm quality has decreased over 50% since the 1970s from analyzing over 40,000 sperm donations. Leading researchers have linked phthalates to degraded sperm, so if you are concerned with the reproduction ability of the men in your life, opting to avoid phthalates is a good idea.
Lead researcher Dr. Julia Varshavsky from the University of California Berkeley gave some warning to pregnant women and children “Pregnant women, children and teens are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of hormone disrupting chemicals, so it’s important to find ways to limit their exposures…Future studies should investigate the most effective intervention to remove phthalates from the food supply.”
Questions for You to Tackle at Home
How often do you eat out at restaurants? Is this study going to change your eating patterns? Or are you just so overwhelmed by all of it you want to go full ostrich for a while. Tell me! I’d love to help!
If you want more tips on how to avoid hormone disrupting chemicals in your home like phthalates pick up a copy of Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier (All Without Driving Your Family Crazy!).