Our hectic way of life often forces us to dine out. Be it fast food or a dish served at a restaurant, there are dangers lurking in the easy to buy and no-need-to-cook food. A new research suggests dining out is associated with a higher concentration of phthalates in the body. Since these substances are harmful, you may want to reevaluate your dining habits.
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Phthalates are chemicals, which are widely used in plastics to enhance their flexibility, durability and other properties. They are often found in packaging used for food storage and transportation. Phthalates can also be used in processing materials. These compounds can disrupt hormones, leading to insulin resistance and obesity. Besides, there is evidence suggesting they can harm the liver and cause asthma.
A team of scientists from George Washington University and the University of California carried out a study in which they found that those people who dine out have increased levels of phthalates in their body. It is the first time phthalate levels have been compared in people who visit fast food outlets, cafeterias and other places of this kind and those who prefer food that is cooked at home.
Food that is obtained at grocery stores and then used for cooking contains less phthalates, which can lead to such health issues as fertility problems. In the US, many people – or two-thirds, to be exact – dine out on a daily basis: at least one meal is bought at some café or restaurant. That is why the study is important: it concerns almost everyone on this side of the pond.
Exposure to these chemicals, which are potentially harmful, was assessed using urine samples collected from a cohort of 10,253 people, some of which dined out during the previous day, and others enjoyed home-made dishes. 61% of those surveyed said they had dined out before the urine test was carried out. The scientists analyzed the data they had collected and found that the average increase in phthalate concentration in the group of people who reported dining out made up 30%, compared to that of the study participants who ate at home.
However, some age groups appeared to be affected more than others. Teenagers are reported to have the highest levels (55% higher than in the eating-at-home group). It can be explained by the fact that many adolescents eat junk food more often due to hanging out with friends and just spending more time far from home.
What is more, certain foods were found to have more phthalates in them. These include sandwiches, such as cheeseburgers. It must be noted that it’s true only of the sandwiches bought at restaurants and fast food outlets: home-made burgers are a safer option.
How do phthalates get to fast food?
Phthalates are used in many items related to the food industry. From food processing equipment to the kind of gloves worn by fast food outlet employees while packing burgers, phthalates are there and can get into food from wrapping and containers. The take-home boxes in which you carry currywurst and fries are no exception.
You can limit your exposure to the chemical by eating at home – not bringing fast food home, but enjoying home-cooked meals. More and more plastic manufacturers stop using phthalates due to the potential harm they can cause. As there are still plenty of plastic items out there that contain the chemical, it’s recommended to avoid eating fast food. It’s a kind of advice that is heard often, and now there is one more reason to go in for cooking.