A study has allegedly linked fast-food consumption to higher urinary phthalate-metabolite levels but not to increased bisphenol A (BPA) levels. Ami Zota, et al., “Recent Fast Food Consumption and Bisphenol A and Phthalates Exposures among the U.S. Population in NHANES, 2003–2010,” Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2016. Using 24-hour dietary recall data obtained from 8,877 participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-2010), researchers with George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health apparently “observed evidence of a positive, dose-response relationship between fast food intake and exposure to phthalates.”

The study authors report that, compared to participants who did not consume fast food, those who received more than 34 percent of their total energy intake from fast food had 23.8 percent and 39 percent higher levels of metabolites of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (ΣDEHPm) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNPm), respectively. In particular, the data suggested that (i) “fast food-derived fat intake was also positively associated with ΣDEHPm and DiNPm”; (ii) “ΣDEHPm was associated with grain and other intake”; and (iii) “DiNPm was associated with meat and grain intake.”

“Participants with high fast food intake had 20-40% higher urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites than non-consumers,” notes the study. “The complexity and variability of fast food production makes it difficult to identify the sources of high-molecular-weight phthalates, though some likely sources have been suggested, including PVC gloves, PVC tubing, and plastic packaging.”

Meanwhile, a separate study has apparently found no evidence associ- ating prenatal phthalate exposure with childhood fat mass in a New York City cohort. Jessie Buckley, et al., “Prenatal Phthalate Exposures and Childhood Fat Mass in a New York City Cohort,” Environmental Health  Perspectives, April 2016. The authors analyzed the phthalate metabolite concentrations in the third-trimester maternal urine of approximately 400 women, as well as their children’s body composition during multiple follow-up visits. After adjusting for multiple covariates, researchers found “prenatal phthalate exposures were not associated with increased body fat among children 4–9 years of age, though high prenatal DEHP exposure may be associated with lower fat mass in childhood.”

“The finding that high prenatal DEHP exposure was associated with lower body fat in children runs counter to the hypothesis that phthalates are environmental obesogens,” explains a concurrent editorial. “This hypothesis is based in part on evidence that phthalates interact with peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, which are involved in metabolism. However, says first author Jessie Buckley, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, ‘This finding is to some extent supported by animal studies of relatively high dose postnatal DEHP exposure that report lower body fat.’”