More headlines. From Fruit to Phthalates

Phthalate alternative DINCH may be less safe than thought


DINCH, or 1,2-cyclohexane dicarboxylic acid diisononyl ester, is commonly used as a safe alternative to phthalate plasticizers. A Canadian study published in “Environmental Research” has however now shown that DINCH might not be so safe after all, having shown that it exerts biological effects on metabolic processes in mammals.

Some phthalates, the most widely-known plasticizers, have been restricted or banned in children’s products in many countries and been replaced by DINCH for many products that come into close contact with the human body (medical devices, toys, food packaging), as DINCH was considered safe. However, there have hitherto been no publicly available peer-reviewed data on its toxicology.

The researchers at McGill University in Montreal evaluated the effects of DINCH and two of its major metabolites (CHDA and MINCH) on the adipose tissue of rats with in-vitro experiments. The researchers initially used DINCH as a control, since it was believed to be safe.

However, they found that it was working similarly to a type of phthalate known as DEHP. DINCH’s metabolite (MINCH) acts as a metabolic disrupter by affecting adipose tissue differentiation. The effect of MINCH was mediated by a receptor involved in both the metabolic and endocrine systems, which allowed the researchers to infer that MINCH could interfere with the endocrine system in mammals.

“The fact that MINCH can affect metabolism, which is a major regulator system of our body, is concerning,” said lead author Vassilios Papadopoulos. “It is currently difficult to assess whether DINCH exposure represents a risk to human health, but specific populations such as occupational workers could be at risk if the level of DINCH reaches environmental levels as high as the banned phthalate DEHP.”


Resveratrol found in fruit may help prevent obesity


Fruit may provide a new strategy for the prevention of obesity. This is the result of a US study published in the “International Journal of Obesity”. According to the study, the high levels of resveratrol, respectively polyphenol, found in berries, grapes and apples, enhance the conversion of white fat into beige fat and thereby reduced weight gain in mice that were fed a high fat diet.

Researchers from Washington State University (Pullman) fed the laboratory mice a high fat diet. In addition, one group of rodents received resveratrol in amounts equivalent to three servings of fruit per day in humans (12 ounces). The study showed that these mice gained 40 per cent less weight compared to the control group fed only the high fat diet.

“Polyphenols in fruit, including resveratrol, increase gene expression that enhances the oxidation of dietary fats so the body won’t be overloaded”, explained study author Min Du. “They convert white fat into beige fat which burns lipids off as heat – helping to keep the body in balance and prevent obesity and metabolic dysfunction.” This process was enabled by a protein called AMPK, which regulates the body’s energy metabolism.

Eating chocolate may stave off cardiovascular disease

Chocolate and heart

Chocolate aficionados can rejoice: according to British study results published in “Heart”, regular consumption of the popular sweet substance may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen analysed data of 21,000 participants in the EPIC Norfolk study as well as literature covering chocolate and heart disease. Average chocolate consumption came to seven grammes per day, consumption ranging from no chocolate at all (around 20 per cent) to 100 grammes per day. 14 per cent of the participants experienced heart disease or stroke during the 12 years the study ran.

Compared with those who did not eat any chocolate, the chocolate-eating participants were 11 per cent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and 25 per cent less likely to die from it. Furthermore, they had lower blood pressure, lower inflammation scores and lower rates of diabetes. Interestingly, the participants who consumed chocolate regularly even had a lower BMI and higher levels of physical activity, and they were, on average, younger.

Those with the highest daily consumption still showed a 23 per cent reduced risk of stroke. These results held true not only for dark chocolate but also for milk chocolate.

Because this was only an observational study, no causal association can be made, the study authors emphasise. However, the combined data indicate that higher chocolate consumption is linked to a reduced risk of future cardiovascular disease.

Young adults’ BP links to later heart problems

Young and BP

Young adults with blood pressure at the higher end of the normal range that continues into middle age have a raised risk of left ventricular dysfunction, says a 25 year follow-up study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which suggests recommending lifestyle changes in younger people to reduce elevated blood pressure.

The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study followed up 2479 men and women aged 18 to 30 at baseline in 1985 and 1986.1 Researchers assessed participants’ health, including measuring their blood pressure, on seven occasions during the 25 years of the study and used cardiac imaging to check their heart function on the final visit. They calculated the participants’ cumulative exposure to blood pressure from baseline to the 25 year examination (mm Hg x year) to assess long term exposure to blood pressure.

Results showed that cumulative exposure to blood pressure was independently associated with diastolic dysfunction, particularly in people with raised diastolic blood pressure (odds ratio 1.69 (95% confidence interval 1.23 to 2.33)). Systolic dysfunction also increased with higher cumulative exposure to blood pressure.

The researchers said the findings showed that young adults with elevated blood pressure should be advised to reduce their sodium intake, maintain a healthy body weight, and keep physically active to reduce their blood pressure.

“Our findings provide further support for the importance of good risk factor control early in life,” said Joao Lima, lead author from the division of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, USA. “Many participants were not hypertensive at the beginning of the study; however, chronic exposure to higher blood pressure, even within what is considered the normal range, is associated with cardiac dysfunction 25 years later.”

The research group acknowledged that its findings were based on non-clinical endpoints and recommended further studies using clinical endpoints.

In an accompanying editorial2 Thomas Marwick, of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania, Australia, commented, “This research raises critical questions about the importance of blood pressure even earlier in life and the need for longitudinal studies beginning in childhood or youth.” He added that identifying patients at risk at an earlier age could prevent the development of heart dysfunction and failure.

By Susan Mayor, London

Courtesy of Univadis

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