In a new study published in the February 2015 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research, Belgian scientists report that exposure to phthalates might be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Several risk factors have been associated with type 2 diabetes including obesity, physical inactivity and cigarette smoking. Recently, certain chemicals have been suspected to have a potential causative role in type 2 diabetes including the food contact substances bisphenol A and some phthalates (FPF reported). In the new study, Dirinck and colleagues from the University of Antwerp, Belgium analyzed ten phthalate metabolites in a cohort of 123 adult obese individuals without a known history of type 2 diabetes. The authors performed an oral glucose tolerance test and the measured glucose and insulin levels served as a basis for calculation of various estimates of insulin resistance and function of the insulin-releasing beta-cells located in pancreas. The results indicate that phthalate exposure is associated with markers of increased insulin resistance, decreased insulin sensitivity and possibly impaired beta-cell function in an overweight and obese population. The authors stress that in light of these findings further research is needed to understand the possible capacity of phthalates to trigger diabetes. Preventing type 2 diabetes is of utmost importance and cessation or reduction in chemical production volumes might be an effective way towards the protection of the general population, the authors conclude.

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Dirinck, E. et al. (2015). “Urinary phthalate metabolites are associated with insulin resistance in obese subjects.Environmental Research 137, 419–423.