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Current studies: Everyday plastics often cause chronic diseases


Doctors are studying the effects of phthalates on men
Certain chemicals that can be found in everyday plastic materials appear to pose a particular threat to men's health. These chemicals, known as phthalates, are associated with increased cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure in men.

Scientists from the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) investigated the relationships between chronic male diseases and levels of potentially harmful chemicals. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Environmental Research".

99.6 percent of the urine samples from subjects contained phthalates
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are found in many everyday consumer goods, such as food packaging, toys, medicines and even medical devices, the scientists explain. For their study, the researchers examined 1,500 South African men. The phthalates were found in the urine samples of 99.6 percent of participants aged 35 and over.

Prevalence of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes due to phthalates is greatly increased
We have found that the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure is massively increased in men with higher phthalate levels, explains author Professor Zumin Shi from Adelaide Medical School in a press release. We still don't understand the exact reasons why the increased concentration of phthalates is linked to the development of diseases. But we know the effects of chemicals on the human endocrine system, the expert continues.

What is the endocrine system?
This system controls the release of hormones, which regulate, for example, the growth of the body, the metabolism and sexual development. In addition to an increase in chronic diseases, higher phthalate levels have been linked to increased concentrations of a number of inflammatory biomarkers in the body, Professor Zumin Shi adds.

Men should eat more fresh fruits and vegetables
Age and western diet are directly associated with higher concentrations of phthalates. Previous studies have also shown that men who eat less fresh fruit and vegetables and consume more processed or packaged foods have increased levels of phthalates in their urine, the expert explains.

Many of the subjects were overweight or obese
82 percent of the men examined in the study were overweight or obese. This is an important factor because the weight problems have previously been associated with chronic diseases, the scientists say. However, the researchers point out that being overweight did not significantly change the significant association between high phthalate levels and certain diseases in the current study.

Results are likely to be relevant to women as well
In addition, the results were adapted to socio-economic factors and lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption, the study authors report. Nevertheless, the association between high concentrations of phthalates and the development of diseases remained unchanged. Although the studies were conducted on men, they are likely to be relevant to women as well, author Shi adds.

More research is needed
More research is needed to assess the risk of phthalate exposure, and a healthier lifestyle might help prevent chronic diseases from developing, explains study author Shi. (as)

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