Role of early-life exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in childhood obesity
The role of early-life exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in childhood obesity has been largely neglected, but recent research suggests that it may play a role in the development of this disease.
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, scientists examined the effects of phthalate exposure on weight gain in children between the ages of 3 and 6 years old. The study found that children with higher levels of phthalates in their bodies were more likely to be overweight or obese than their peers who had lower levels.
The researchers also found that children who were exposed to more phthalates had higher blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance—a precursor condition for diabetes—than those with lower exposures.
Phthalates are industrial chemicals that are used as plasticizers in products such as toys and cosmetics. While they are not known as endocrine disruptors, they have been linked with increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and reproductive problems. The researchers believe that exposure to phthalates may contribute to childhood obesity by altering how fat cells respond to insulin and other hormones involved in metabolism.