People who consumed lots of fast food tended to have levels of harmful chemicals known as phthalates in their urine that were 24 percent to 40 percent higher than people who rarely ate such foods.
Although the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to phthalates and fast-food, the study authors warned against regular consumption of these types of foods. They pointed out that the two phthalates in question, known by their abbreviations as DEHP and DiNP are used by industries to make plastics flexible and can be found in a wide array of food packaging and food-processing machinery.
The two phthalates can get into fast food during the processing of the food, or can leach into the food from the packaging in which it is stored or transported prior to cooking and also when it is served. Fast food even can pick up phthalates from the vinyl gloves that restaurant workers wear to prevent food poisoning.
Researchers say that to reduce exposure to phthalates, it is recommended to always minimize exposure to processed foods, and the ultimate processed food platform is the fast-food restaurant. They do not use anything fresh.
The study reviewed data on nearly 8,900 people who answered detailed questions about their diet in the past 24 hours, including consumption of fast food, and provided a urine sample that could be tested for signs of DEHP and DiNP. People were considered heavy fast-food connoisseurs if they obtained more than 35 percent of their daily calories from such sources.
Researchers found that the more fast food participants in the study ate, the higher their exposure to phthalates. People with the highest consumption of fast food had 24 percent higher levels of the breakdown product for DEHP in their urine sample. Those same fast-food lovers had nearly 40 percent higher levels of DiNP byproducts in their urine compared to people who reported no fast food in the 24 hours prior to the testing.