The ingredient list on some of your day-to-day products might include a pretty scary one: phthalates. Present in many deodorants, colognes, and even food packaging, the chemical could be linked to a higher chance of developing diabetes, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Researchers tested urine samples of 2,350 people—some who had diabetes—and found a correlation between higher levels of phthalates and increased odds of having diabetes, according to the study’s lead researcher, Tamarra James-Todd, Ph.D., a professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
And though the study was correlational—researchers can’t definitely say that phthalates lead to a higher risk of diabetes—they’re not exactly a chemical you want to hang around with. In fact, in a separate study in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers analyzed men’s urine and blood samples and found those with the highest levels of phthalates in their system had more stomach fat and lower semen quality. Even low-dose exposure could reduce testosterone levels, say researchers. (Reverse the trend! Check out our book Testosterone Transformation and increase your T levels.)
The problem: The pesky chemical is hard to escape from, and can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled, or taken in from food, says James-Todd. One way to reduce your exposure: Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. A study from the Silent Spring Institute found a fresh food diet can significantly reduce your phthalate intake. And when it comes to grooming products, opt for fragrance-free brands, which have lower levels of phthalates.