Eating out in restaurants is definitely a convenient option for busy people. There’s no cooking, cleaning or food prep involved. But a recent study is finding that while it might be an easy solution, it might not be the safest. That’s because eating out can increase exposure to endocrine disruptor chemicals.

Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastic more durable and flexible. So, it’s logical that phthalates are used in packaging materials, but this binding agent is actually present in food, and in particular, restaurant fare.

Why are phthalates so dangerous? This toxic chemical is linked to breast cancer, fertility issues, attention deficit disorder, asthma, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and so much more.

The study published in the journal, Environment International, interviewed over 10,000 individuals, asking them to describe what and where they ate in the last 24 hours. Along with this data, researchers measured phthalate biomarkers in each individual’s urine sample.

What scientists found is that 61 percent of the participants reported eating out in the last 24 hours. And this group’s phthalate levels were 35 percent higher than those who didn’t eat out.

Teenagers who ate out showed significantly higher levels of phthalates than their stay-at-home peers – a whopping 55 percent increase in this endocrine disrupting chemical, to be precise.

While it’s possible to eat a wide variety of foods out of the home, the study noted that “sandwiches purchased away from home are associate with higher phthalate levels.”

According to researcher Dr. Ami Zota, “Our findings suggest that dining out may be an important, and previously under-recognized, source of exposure to phthalate for the US population.”

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