Beware of Phthalates at Restaurants, Fast Food Outlets
It sounds fun and exciting for some people to dine out at restaurants, cafeterias, and fast-food outlets. But there is something to watch for with this habit.
According to a new study, dining out at these places increases risk of exposure to health harming chemicals called phthalates in the body. These chemicals are commonly used in food packaging and are known to cause adverse health effects.
The study revealed that people who reported consuming more restaurant, fast food and cafeteria meals had phthalate levels that were nearly 35 percent higher than people who reported eating food mostly purchased at the grocery store.
This finding was confirmed by senior author Ami Zota, ScD, MS, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute School of Public Health(Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.
Zota said, “Our findings suggest that dining out may be an important, and previously under-recognized source of exposure to phthalates for the U.S. population.”
The Study and Key Results
To compare phthalate exposure in people who reported dining out to those more likely to enjoy home-cooked meals, the researchers asked 10,253 participants in the study to recall what they ate and where their food came from in the previous 24 hours. The researchers then analyzed the links between what people ate and the levels of phthalate break-down products found in each participant’s urine sample.
Key findings showed that dining out was significantly associated with increased exposure to phthalates.
Here are some of the interesting results!
The team found that 61 percent of the participants reported dining out the previous day. In addition, the researchers found:
- The association between phthalate exposure and dining out was significant for all age groups but the magnitude of association was highest for teenagers;
- Adolescents who were high consumers of fast food and other food purchased outside the home had 55 percent higher levels of phthalates compared to those who only consumed food at home;
- Certain foods, and especially cheeseburgers and other sandwiches, were associated with increased levels of phthalates – but only if they were purchased at a fast-food outlet, restaurant or cafeteria. The study found that sandwiches consumed at fast food outlets, restaurants or cafeterias were associated with 30 percent higher phthalate levels in all age groups.
Nothing Beats Home-cooked Meals
The results raised some concerns especially in the United States. That’s because two-thirds of the population eats at least some food outside the home daily.
The researchers suggest that home-cooked meals are the best option to curb exposure to toxic phthalates.
Zota said, “Preparing food at home may represent a win-win for consumers,” adds Zota. “Home cooked meals can be a good way to reduce sugar, unhealthy fats and salt. And this study suggests it may not have as many harmful phthalates as a restaurant meal.”
In addition, home-cooked meals are less likely contain harmful chemicals.
Zota added, “Our findings suggest that dining out may be an important, and previously under-recognized source of exposure to phthalates for the U.S. population.”