Study links restaurant meals with higher levels of plastic-based chemicals in body

If you have a habit of eating out, it could be costing you more than a portion of your paychecks. It turns out, eating outside the home — at restaurants, fast-food joints, and cafeterias, including delivery and take-out — is correlated with higher body levels of phthalates, a ubiquitous class of chemicals linked to all sorts of ailments, a study found.Phthalates, a group of chemicals used in food packaging and processing materials, are known to disrupt hormones in humans and are linked to a long list of health problems.

The study is the first to compare phthalate exposures in people who reported dining out to those more likely to enjoy home-cooked meals. People who reported consuming more restaurant, fast food and cafeteria meals had phthalate levels that were nearly 35% higher than people who reported eating food mostly purchased at the grocery store, according to the study.

“This study suggests food prepared at home is less likely to contain high levels of phthalates, chemicals linked to fertility problems, pregnancy complications and other health issues,” says senior author Ami Zota, from the Milken Institute School of Public Health, part of George Washington University in Washington DC, US.

Lead author Julia Varshavsky, of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, Zota, and their colleagues used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected between 2005 and 2014.

The 10,253 participants in the study were asked to recall what they ate and where their food came from in the previous 24 hours. The researchers then analyzed the links between what people ate and the levels of phthalate break-down products found in each participant’s urine sample. The team found that 61% of the participants reported dining out the previous day.

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