Women’s Diabetes May Be Tied to Common Chemical in Beauty Products

Women’s diabetes is linked to a wide variety of causes, many of which are lifestyle-related — but a new study indicates that there may be a connection between a chemical present in many popular beauty products and whether a woman develops diabetes after regular exposure to the substance.

The chemicals eyed in cases of women’s diabetes are phthalates, and phthalates have been controversial in the past. Pediatricians have warned of the dangers of phthalates in children and babies’ toys, and consumer rights advocates have urged stricter regulation on phthalates in common products.

The link between women’s diabetes and phthalates is preliminary, but researchers say that exposure to the chemicals in a variety of personal care products aimed at women could have an impact on whether women develop the condition after being exposed in small amounts over the years.

Researchers in Boston examined urine from more than 2,000 women across the United States in an attempt to drill down on the causes of women’s diabetes, a problem increasing as diets change and lifespans increase. What they discovered is that levels of mono-benzyl phthalateand mono-isobutyl phthalate in urine corresponded with women’s diabetes rates, and that women with higher levels of the chemicals were twice as likely to develop the condition than those without.

women's diabetes chemicals

Tamarra James-Todd is a researcher in the division of women’s health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Todd commented on the findings surrounding women’s diabetes and phthalates:

“This is an important first step in exploring the connection between phthalates and diabetes… We know that in addition to being present in personal care products, phthalates also exist in certain types of medical devices and medication that is used to treat diabetes and this could also explain the higher level of phthalates in diabetic women. So overall, more research is needed.”

The study was published online in the July 13th edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.