plastic containers

Plastics found in food containers linked to insulin resistance

New research finds a link between chemicals used to strengthen plastic food container and insulin resistance. The study was conducted at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Phthalates and insulin resistance: should we avoid plastics in food containers?

The chemicals, which are phthalate compounds known as di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) and di-isodecyl pthalate (DIDP), were brought in to replace 2-ethylhexylphlatate (DEHP), which was consistently linked with similar health problems. All of these compounds are used to strengthen plastic-based household items, particularly food containers.

Two different studies were conducted: the first found that blood pressure increased by 1.1mm of mercury for every 10-fold increase in phthalate consumption. The second study found higher levels of insulin resistance in teenagers with the most exposure to DINP.

The studies provided no proof that the phthalates directly caused insulin resistance and high blood pressure. The link was only a correlation, and more research will need to be conducted before a causative link can be confirmed.

Environmental chemicals and insulin resistance: a hidden cause?

These are far from the first studies to raise questions about the effects of environmental chemicals on the risk of insulin resistance.

“Our research adds to growing concerns that environmental chemicals might be independent contributors to insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure and other metabolic disorders,” said study leader Professor Leonardo Trasande.

“Our study adds further concern for the need to test chemicals for toxicity prior to their broad and widespread use.”

Professor Trasande suggests that it would be safer to avoid the use of plastics altogether:

“Alternatives to DIDP and DINP include wax paper and aluminium wrap; indeed, a dietary intervention that introduced fresh foods that were not canned or packaged in plastic reduced phthalate metabolites substantially.”

How to reduce phthalate consumption

Ideally, says Professor Trasande, plasticized food packaging would be avoided altogether. When this isn’t possible, there are a couple of other ways to reduce phthalate consumption:

  • When microwaving food, don’t place it in plastic containers or cover it with plastic wrap
  • Avoid washing plastic food containers in the dishwasher. Doing so can cause plasticisers to leak.

The research was published in the journals Hypertension and The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.