What are Phthalates? Consuming foods that contain Phthalates during pregnancy promotes genital abnormalities in male infants. Phthalates are chemical compounds that are used in a wide range of consumer products, including pesticides, paints, and PVC plastic. Consumers can also be exposed to these chemical compounds through dietary sources, as cited in a report published in the journal of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Taking into account that the food we consume exposes us to the highest levels of these toxic substances, women who are pregnant should be advised of the potential risks.
Phthalate Exposure During Pregnancy Promotes Anatomical Genital Abnormalities in Males
Dr. Michael Greger's above video explains that while studies in the past linked phthalate exposure to genital development deformity in lab rats, it wasn't until recently when similar effects on sexual health and development were observed in human studies. Phthalates possess anti-androgenic properties. This means that they alter the natural expression of male androgen hormones, which are responsible for male characteristics. The most important research came from the Study for Future Families. Phthalate levels were first measured in the bodies of women who were pregnant. After they gave birth, researchers "measured the size and characteristics of their infant son's genitals between ages 2 months to 3 years." One particular phthalate (mono 2-ethylhexyl phthalate, MEHP) was associated with a smaller penis.
The study concluded that women who are exposed to the most phthalates during pregnancy increase the likelihood of their male sons having anatomical genital abnormalities. The women who had the most exposure "had up to 10 times the odds of giving birth to sons with one or both testicles incompletely descended, their scrotum underdeveloped and categorized as small and/or 'not distinct from surrounding tissue,' and a significantly smaller penis volume (microphallus) -taking into account both length and girth." Exposure to phthalates may "undervirilize males" (which can affect fertility).
Furthermore, exposure to phthalates was found to affect the female reproductive system in rats. This included decreased estradiol production, prolonged estrous cycles, and no ovulation.
Which Foods Contain Phthalates?
Urine samples from thousands of Americans were tested along with their diets in order to find out which foods were associated with increased phthalate levels in the body. Dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, tomatoes, vegetables, potatoes and red meat were studied. Dairy consumption was significantly associated with one type of phthalate called MCPP and eggs with another type. However poultry consumption "was a significant predictor of levels of all of the individual DEHP metabolites, MEHP, MEHHP, MEOHP, MECCP, etc.
In the final analysis, "An increase of one ounce of poultry per day is associated with an increase in one of the phthalate metabolite levels of approximately 5.7% and a single chicken breast is nearly 8 ounces."
Dr. Greger summarizes by cautioning women who are pregnant to avoid consuming poultry to avoid "incomplete virilization" in their sons. He goes on to say, "Boys who are exposed to phthalates are more likely to prefer playing with items such as dolls rather than typical male items like trucks."
Evidence is also suggesting an association between children who are exposed to phthalates and developmental disorders, such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and learning disabilites as seen in this study: Association between phthalates and attention deficit disorder and learning disability in U.S. children, 6–15 years
For more information, click on the related links:
(3) Sperm Counts Reduced by Eating Meat and Dairy (scroll down to the 3rd article)