Another reason to eat more home-prepared meals: Food from restaurants (full-service or fast-food) or cafeterias contains more phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to hormonal disruption, reproductive problems, and other adverse effects, according to a study in Environment International.
Using data from more than 10,000 people (over age 6), researchers from UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, and George Washington University looked for links between the participants’ diets and levels of phthalate breakdown products in their urine. They found that people, especially teenagers, who reported often dining out (or eating takeout food) had higher phthalate levels, on average, than those who rarely ate out. Cheeseburgers, pizza, fried potatoes, and other high-fat foods, in particular, were linked to higher levels.
Phthalates may get into foods from plastic and cardboard packaging, polyvinyl gloves used by preparers, and other items used in food preparation and handling.
Highly processed store-bought foods (such as frozen French fries and entrees) may also contribute to phthalate exposure, the researchers noted, though this study did not analyze that.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.