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Is Your Child's Toy Making Him Fat?

Update Date: Jun 25, 2012 05:18 PM EDT

More and more children are falling under the category of being obese and various factors are held responsible for the same, such as inactivity, lifestyle, food etc.

This might come as a surprise, but the latest addition to the factors that might be making your child fat, is a certain kind of chemical called phthalates, typically present in the plastic toys that children play with.

Di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), which is used to soften plastics, is believed to be able to alter biological functions involved in fat metabolism. The study shows that children with the highest levels of DEHP were five times more likely to be obese than those with lowest DEHP levels.

"It may trigger the master regulator of fat creation and lipid metabolism,"study co-author Dr. Mi-Jung Park, a pediatric endocrinologist and professor at Inje University College of Medicine, in Seoul, South Korea was quoted as saying by HealthDay.

How exactly does DEHP work?

According to Park, DEHP may work in two different ways, resulting in increased fat development.

Firstly, it may lower down the effect of androgen, a male sex hormone, resulting in low body-mass index (BMI). Also, it may disrupt thyroid function resulting in weight gain.

Interference with androgen or thyroid hormones can affect a person's appetite or metabolism, she explained. In men, phthalates can be responsible for breast growth, reproductive problems and low birth weight, claim some other studies.

For the study, blood levels of DEHP in 204 children in the group of between 6 and 13 were measured by the researchers. While 105 children were found to be obese, 99 were of normal weight.

The results revealed that obese children had higher levels of DEHP in their blood. The increased risk of obesity with elevated DEHP levels was not related to the amount of physical activity or their daily calorie intake, said the report in HealthDay.

According to Park, parents need to know that phthalates are virtually everywhere -- in food, water, plastic bags and packaging wraps, cosmetics, lotions, shampoo and toy and putting hot water or food into plastic container may pose as dangerous. Infants, pregnant women, and children may be particularly sensitive to the chemical, she added.

 The study was presented on Saturday at the Endocrine Society annual meeting in Houston.

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