“What Diet Best Lowers
Phthalate Exposure?” Phthalates are hormone-
disrupting chemicals linked to a number of
adverse health effects, such as disturbing infant
and child development and in adults may affect
reproductive health in men, endometriosis in women, and is associated with increased
abdominal fat in both. Given the increasing
evidence base linking phthalate exposure
with harmful outcomes, it is important to understand
major sources of exposure. The most major of
which is diet, for if you take people and
have them stop eating for a few days, you get
a significant drop in the amount of phthlates
spilling out into their urine. One can only fast
for so long though. Thankfully we can
see similar drops just eating a plant-based
diet for a few days, which gives
us a clue as to where most
phthalates are found. The highest levels
are found in meats, fats,
and dairy. Poultry consistently
comes out as being most contaminated
across the board, with some of the highest
levels ever reported, though there are
geographic exceptions. In the UK, fish
came out worse. And in Belgium, nothing appears
to beat out reindeer meat. In the U.S., though,
it’s poultry. The finding that egg
consumption is also significantly associated
with phthalate levels suggests that chickens themselves
may be contaminated and it’s not just
like the plastic they’re wrapped with
in the store. The same might not
be true with dairy, though. Realizing that these
chemicals may be harmful, researchers in Seattle
took ten families and randomized them into
five days of complete dietary replacement with fresh organic foods,
no packaging, nothing touched plastic, organic milk
delivered in glass. Even the crates to
carry the food were wood instead
of plastic. This was like the
fasting study, to see what role
eliminating processed foods would have on lowering
phthalate levels, because not everyone
wants to switch to a plant-based diet
or stop eating completely. Here’s where the
families started at baseline before changing their diet. And here’s where they ended up,
a week after the experiment, when they were back on
their baseline diet. The question, is what
happened in the middle? Eating fresh and organic, their phthalate levels
went up. A dramatic and
unexpected increase in one of the most
toxic phthalates. And not just a little,
like 2000% increase. So they tested
all the foods and one of the spices was
off the chart, and so was the dairy, because most of
the phthalates apparently don’t come
from the cow, they come from
the tubing. If you milk a
cow by hand, which even the Amish
don’t do anymore, the levels of phthalates
in the milk are low, but if you milk the
same cows by machine, the milk picks up
phthalates from the tubing, and so the final levels
may depend more on the tubing than
on what the cows are fed. Whereas we’re
not sure where the chickens
are getting it. This study was done
on adults. More recently we learned
where our kids may be getting
it from. They found pretty much
the same thing- mostly meat, poultry,
and fish. And again, poultry appeared
to be the worst, while soy consumption
was associated with significantly
lower levels. But what kind of exposure
are we talking about? They calculated what may
be typical exposures for infants, teens,
and women. How does this compare
with current guidelines? The EPA’s reference dose, which is like the maximum
acceptable threshold is 20 based on
liver risk. Europe places their
maximum daily intake for testicular
toxicity at 50. So a typical infant diet
exceeds the EPA’s safety level, while a diet high
in meat and dairy was approximately four
times this threshhold. For adolescents, a diet
high in meat and dairy also exceeded the
EPA’s reference dose. Diets high in meat
and dairy consumption resulted in a two-fold
increase in exposure. And all diets
from all groups exceeded the allowable
daily intakes derived by the US Consumer
Product & Safety Commission for problems with
sperm production, while diets high in meat
and dairy consumption may exceed the
allowable intake for risk of reproductive
birth defects as well.