Things people use every day, such as personal products and food packaging, contain phthalates, which are used to soften plastics and are in lubricants and artificial fragrances.
While people are exposed to phthalates regularly, recent evidence has shown that they can have an impact on male reproductive health.
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Melanie Jacobson, PhD, MPH, and colleagues set out to determine the associations between urinary phthalate metabolites and serum sex steroid hormone concentrations. They included some of the newer replacement chemicals in their study that had not previously been examined.
"In this study among a representative sample of US men, we identified age-specific associations of phthalates with lower testosterone. Low molecular weight (LMW) phthalates, commonly found in cosmetics and lotions, were associated with lower testosterone in younger men; and high molecular weight (HMW) phthalates, commonly found in food packaging and PVC products, were associated with lower testosterone in older men," the authors wrote.
Jacobson and colleagues noted that their study also had another important finding. While it has been thought that some alternatives -- such as polyethylene terephthalates (PETs) and bis-2-ethylhexyl terephthalate and 1,2-cyclohexane dicarboxylic acid di-isononyl ester (DINCH) -- were safer, the researchers found that this might not be the case. They found that both di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and DINCH were associated with higher testosterone levels in men ages 20-39, and DINCH with lower testosterone levels in those ages 40-59. DINCH was connected to lower testosterone in those over 40 and in those ages 60 and older, and DEHP was associated with lower free testosterone, bioavailable testosterone, and free androgen index.
"If replicated, this may warrant the recommendation to avoid all plastics, and not only those with recycling numbers 3, 6, and 7, which are indicative of PVC and polystyrene plastics," the authors wrote. By this, they "mean that more studies are needed on conventional phthalate replacements such as DEHTP and DINCH," Jacobson noted in an email.
Jacobson answered some of MedPage Today's questions on their research.
Why did you decide to tackle the subject of phthalates and potential endocrine-disrupting effects in men?
Jacobson: We examined phthalates in relation to sex hormones among adult men because previous research in both animals and humans has linked these types of exposures with testosterone production and function. This previous research has led to increased regulation of some phthalates, specifically DEHP, and consequent efforts to establish replacement chemicals such as di-isononyl phthalate (DINP), di-isobutyl phthalate (DIBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), and PETs. However, little is known about the potential health effects of exposure to these newer phthalate derivatives.
Were there any results in the study that surprised you?
Jacobson: We were surprised that results varied so much by age. This has not been consistently documented in the literature.
Why do you think you observed heterogeneity of associations in different age groups?
Jacobson: One possible explanation is that hormone function and hormone levels vary widely across the lifespan, with total and bioavailable testosterone decreasing and SHBG increasing with age. It is possible that exogenous exposures, such as phthalates, may interact with hormones differently at different concentrations.
What is the primary takeaway from the results of your study?
Jacobson: Because phthalate exposure is ubiquitous, it is concerning that we detected associations with lower testosterone in certain age groups, such as men over 60. Testosterone is a vital hormone for men's health -- in adult men, low testosterone is a recognized risk factor for several chronic health conditions: metabolic syndrome, diabetes, neurological and cognitive functioning, bone loss, cardiovascular disease, and even premature mortality.
What would you like to happen next as a result of your study?
Jacobson: More research in this area is needed, particularly longitudinal studies that are able to measure exposures and outcomes over time.
You can read expert commentary on the clinical implications of this study here and review the abstract of the study here.
Read the original post:
Melanie Jacobson, PhD, MPH, on the Effects of Phthalates on Testosterone in Men - MedPage Today
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