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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

Higher Levels of Phthalate Metabolites are Associated with Diabetes   (July 16, 2012)

High urinary levels of some chemicals called MnBP, MiBP, MBzP, MCPP, and ΣDEHP are now known to be associated with diabetes in women. Please don’t ask me what these weird acronyms stand for – I almost flunked biochemistry and that was many years ago – other than the fact that they apparently are all breakdown products, AKA metabolites, of stuff called phthalates, which are commonly used in almost everything, including food packaging, cosmetics, perfumes, and nail polishes, among many other products.

A recent publication, Urinary Phthalate Metabolite Concentrations and Diabetes among Women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008, evaluated 2,350 women ages 20-<80 who had self-reported that they have diabetes; all of these women had urinary phthalate laboratory analyses done. The authors of this study found that the risk of diabetes was twice as high in women who contain higher levels of some of these phthalate metabolites compared to women with lower levels. (Adjustments were made in analyzing the data to exclude potentially confounding factors such as sociodemographic factors, diet, waist size and BMI.)

The authors had been aware that women have higher urinary concentrations of several phthalate metabolites compared to men, which they surmised might “possibly [be] due to higher use of personal care products.”  They concluded that their findings “suggest the need to further explore the association between phthalates, insulin resistance, and diabetes. If future studies determine causal links between phthalates and diabetes, then reducing phthalate exposure could decrease the risk of diabetes in women.”

Very interesting. There have been previous studies showing correlations of other chemicals with diabetes: the most notorious being the use of Agent Orange (a herbicide containing dioxin) in Vietnam. Now, if the authors’ assumption is correct that the higher phthalate metabolite levels are indeed due to perfumes and other fragrance-related products, then decreasing the use of such good-stinky products might decrease the risk of developing diabetes.

Footnote: The NHANES program has been ongoing for almost forever (since 1971) and has been the source of all sorts of epidemiologic goodies; this latest finding is only one of many accomplishments: see National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data Accomplishments.

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