There is countless research about the prevalence of obesity (and its resulting health conditions) in the Latino community. While many of the reasons are lifestyle related – i.e. poor nutritional decisions, sedentary lifestyles, etc – what if some of the blame is due to the packaging in which food comes?`
According to new research conducted by Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a pediatrician from New York University, and his team, that could be the case. It turns out that researchers found that one type of phthalate (Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate [DEHP]), used to soften plastic, has been tied to a higher risk of insulin resistance among teenagers. Furthermore, a different portion of the same study linked bisphenol A, or BPA – used to line aluminum cans – to obesity and larger waists in youth.
While the researchers still maintain the importance of a well-balanced diet and exercise in maintaining optimal health, they are increasingly pointing out the prevalence of the effects of environmental factors such as these chemicals. While researchers were careful to point out that these findings don’t necessarily mean the chemicals cause insulin-resistance, they do say it is possible that the chemicals could change the way the body secretes insulin.
While other surveys have studied the effects of BPA and DEHP on children and adolescents without delving into the effects on insulin resistance, there have been additional links to an increase in obesity. Dr. Joyce Lee from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and her colleagues used nutrition survey data through 2010 to compare BPA levels in the urine of six- to 18-year-olds to find that the children with the 25% highest levels of BPA in their urine were twice as likely to be obese as the children on the opposite side of the scale.
While findings are still preliminary, it’s important to be proactive. When purchasing foods and food products that come in plastic containers, be diligent in avoiding DEHP. Check the bottle. If it’s been marked with the number “3,” it contains DEHP. Don’t wash plastic containers in the dishwasher or reheat them in the microwave. If a plastic container is stained or scratched, toss it. Better yet, choose fresher foods or produce that has been frozen. Serve food on ceramic or paper plates. By reducing how many chemicals a child is exposed to, a parent can increase their chances at childhood obesity and the extremely serious health conditions that come with them.