Diabetes and cosmetics: A connection?
July 13th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Diabetes and cosmetics: A connection?

Hidden in perfumes, scented lotions, food packaging and even synthetic leathers are a type of chemical called phthalates. Most people in the United States are exposed to phthalates, and levels tend to be higher in women than men.

A new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives examines whether there is a connection between phthalates and diabetes in women. Researchers did find an association but did not prove that the chemicals cause diabetes.

Researchers found that the risk of having diabetes was twice as high in women with the highest levels of certain phthalates, compared with women with the lowest levels. Looking at the data a different way, there would be about 40 extra diabetes cases per 1,000 women when women with high levels are compared to women with low levels.

What explains this association? One idea is that phthalates bind to cells in the body that manage blood-glucose metabolism and fat cell development.

"Because they can bind to natural cell receptors, they could alter normal function," said Dr. Tamarra James-Todd, associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Keep in mind that people with diabetes may have higher phthalate levels because of their use of certain medical devices and medications, which contain these chemicals, too. This study did not rule out that explanation.

But the researchers did a sub-study on women without diabetes to get at this issue. Non-diabetic women with higher levels of pthalates tended to have higher blood glucose levels. "Both of those things are precursors of diabetes," James-Todd said.

Researchers analyzed data on 2,350 women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who self-reported whether they had diabetes and gave urine samples that were examined for the presence of phthalates. The study is cross-sectional, meaning questions about phthalate levels and diabetes status were not collected at the same point in time.

Future research could follow a group of people who don't have diabetes, measure pthalate levels and see whether the chemicals are associated with developing diabetes longterm.

Companies are not required to disclose whether there are phthalates in products, but almost anything that contains "fragrance" has these chemicals, James-Todd said. More products are emerging with labels that say "phthalate-free," but the packaging could still be full of them.

"There's not much we can do as consumers," she said. "Hopefully, these findings will spur additional research."

soundoff (945 Responses)
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    July 13, 2012 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cheetahgirl

      sounds like junk science to me

      July 13, 2012 at 12:11 | Report abuse |
  2. Ruxpin

    Wish they would distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Which one is it?

    July 13, 2012 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DM1

      Exactly, please distinguish. Is it linked to Type 1 or Type 2? I don't even think these 2 diseases should go by the same medical term. Generally speaking, Type 2 diabetes is self-inflicted, and it's not fair to lump the two together.

      July 13, 2012 at 09:37 | Report abuse |
    • Kempis

      Totally agree. I think the names of these diseases need to be changed. My 8 year old son has Type 1 and he's frequently confused when he sees commercials for Type 2 "cures" or news reports about obsety and Type 2 and he wonders why he has diabetes when he's not over weight. Very confusing.

      July 13, 2012 at 13:07 | Report abuse |
    • TyoeILady

      Because of the epidemic of Type II diabetes, the world seems to have forgotten that Type I exists! I've had it for 30 + years, and I'm so tired of people not making the distinction. They are different diseases, for cryhing out loud! They have different causes, and different outcomes in many cases. These days people automatically equate diabetes with obesity. I weighed 70 pounds when I was diagnosed!

      July 13, 2012 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
    • Insulin User

      Based on the news story, the connection is clearly with Type II diabetes.

      July 14, 2012 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
    • snowgal

      DM1- I have Type 2 diabetes and I need to correct you. Not all Type 2 it is "self-inflicted" (weighing too much). I am normal weight and have always exercised at least 3 times a week (Tennis, running, skiing, etc). It runs in my family.

      July 15, 2012 at 09:53 | Report abuse |
  3. Anna

    When you go behind politics we see that type 2 diabetes has already been reversed without this dangerous surgery. Dr Liu in Denmark revealed how to reverse diabetes without any medications.

    No one needs a drug to reverse type 2 diabetes. All of this information was taken from the Spirit Happy Diet people in Denmark.

    Diabetes has been reversed in over 10,000 people by using a specialized diabetes diet. The diet also reversed body fat in people trying to lose weight. Scientists showed food chemicals is the cause of almost all diabetes. They also showed how to reverse your own diabetes without medications. The diabetes drug caused cancer

    just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

    July 13, 2012 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • blog

      This Lady Anna is a fake scammer. Spirit happy diet is a scam. Diet and Exercise always controlled diabetes, this is nothing new.

      July 13, 2012 at 12:55 | Report abuse |
    • JudyS

      When i tried to access the Spirit Happy Diet.or website, I got a virus warning and my browser wouldn't let me enter the site.

      July 13, 2012 at 13:20 | Report abuse |
  4. T1

    I find it hard to find CNN to be a reliable news source when you group Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes into one group called just "Diabetes." Because of news sources doing this so often, I am often ridiculed for having Type 1, an autoimmune disease that I had no control over getting. Do you know what it is like to have people say, "So you ate too much sugar?" Or, "You can get rid of that you know." Or, "You should try losing weight." Having a chronic illness like Type 1 is devestating, exhausting, expensive, and heart breaking. Myself, family, friends, other Type 1's, and many organizations have been trying to spread awareness about Type 1 and when articles come out about "Diabetes" it really doesn't help the Type 1 cause. In the future, please be more considerate of those that have Type 1.

    Thank you.

    July 13, 2012 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jackiek11

      I am a T1 diabetic as well and get many of the same comments you do. I think there should be a movement within T1 groups to advocate for clarifying the difference between the two types.

      July 13, 2012 at 13:06 | Report abuse |
    • JudyS

      I have Type 2, and believe me, it isn't controllable, either. I have tried all sorts of diets - low carb, low fat, vegan. I have exercised vigorously as much as 10 hours a week. Some of the changes led to temporary improvements, but over time, my Type 2 diabetes just got worse no matter what I did. A few years ago, I dieted really hard in an attempt to get rid of my diabetes. Even though I was still obese (and eating a "reasonable" diet of about 1800 calories a day) my hair fell out, my body temperature dropped, and I developed a series of infections. I have been mostly bedridden since then. So much for the "benefits" of a "healthy" lifestyle!

      As for this article, something is causing rates of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to skyrocket, and we don't know what it is. "Pre-diabetes" is up about 300% in adolescents in the past 10 years, even though the obesity rate has remained flat in that time. I firmly believe that chemicals in the environment are one reason for the skyrocketing rate of diabetes. Articles like this are a good start in addressing the problem of environmental chemicals.

      July 13, 2012 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
    • Type1Mother

      Yes, exactly. It gives terrible false hope to these little ones when they hear these things. I can't tell you how many times, even with TV commercials, I have to say to my daughter "That's type 2 they're talking about". You'd think big news outfits would hear thesec omments and make note for the future. It isn't as though we're giving poilitical opinions here. Facts!

      July 13, 2012 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
  5. Boo

    More scare tactics....WHATEVER!

    July 13, 2012 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. DannyTelevision

    Dear Gupta...There is a difference between type 2 diabetes (fat people) and type 1 diabetes (doomed people...haha *wink).
    Please consider yourself schooled...
    Greetings to LeeAnn!

    July 13, 2012 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • blog

      This report is not by sanjay gupta. Its written by Elizabeth landau

      July 13, 2012 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
    • DannyTelevision

      ahhh so sorry...how about an article on the difference between type 1 and type 2. It would be great educational material 🙂

      July 13, 2012 at 13:06 | Report abuse |
  7. Type1Mother

    It would be incredibly helpful if articles and especially *headlines* specified which type of diabetes they are refering to. Many people only read the headlines. Kids and adults living with type 1 have to deal daily with people who think they can make lifestyle changes to cure their disease. In Type 1, the pancreatic cells that produce insulin are killed by the persons own immune system and CAN'T be brought back to life. It's confusing, sad and frustrating for my daughter to hear these things from people who mean no harm. The word Type2 only takes up 5 spaces 🙂 Thank you.

    July 13, 2012 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. TexDoc

    Backwords logic. Heavier women are going to use more make-up to bring the eye to the face. Heavier women get diabetes more often. The article should have been headlined: "Diabetes and obesity linked to increased cosmetic use."

    July 13, 2012 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Yes1fan

    "The Joker" strikes again!

    July 13, 2012 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Frank Tillery

    It is not surprising that we do not suffer many other ailments as a result of all the chemicals we use to make ourselves smell better or keep our skin "silky smooth" or our hair "soft and manageable". Also, this latest trend of ridding the body of all hair is a bit confusing. One of the primary characteristics of mammals is hair. Now there are a myriad of products designed to remove and keep hair off of our bodies (except the head, which is another family of products designed to make it grow). Humans, ya gotta love 'em!

    July 13, 2012 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. chloe

    Mmm..interesting discussion indeed! I will never thought of diabetes can be connected to cosmetics!

    Publisher, Homeremediesforgoutt.com

    July 13, 2012 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. amberblueskincare

    Reblogged this on Amber Blue Skincare and commented:
    Another reason why what you put ON your body is just as important as what you put IN your body...

    July 13, 2012 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. eviewg

    Uhhh... you sure it's not cause they've just been guzzling fat, oily, sugary foods their entire lives?

    July 14, 2012 at 00:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. larry5

    If our EPA works for us instead of working for corrupt politicians and corporate interests these little buggers would already be banned. Stuff like this and other problems like GMO's are there only to support big business and to heck with people.

    July 15, 2012 at 09:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Snowgal, you are right and I apologize for the blanket statement. I used the term " generally speaking". I should have said "most cases". I still believe that Type 1 deserves the distinction.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.