JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Sep 1;5(9):e2233088. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.33088.
IMPORTANCE: Obesity and metabolic syndrome are highly prevalent among the US population and are associated with the dysregulation of sex hormones. An increase in obesity and metabolic syndrome may also be associated with exposure to phthalates. The association of exposure to phthalate metabolites with sex hormones and metabolic health has been understudied in the female population.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the association between exposure to common phthalate metabolites with total testosterone (TT) levels, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels, obesity, and metabolic syndrome among women.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This cross-sectional study used data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey during 2013 to 2016. Female participants aged 15 years or older with urinary profiles containing common phthalate metabolites were included in this study. Statistical analyses were performed from March 15, 2021, to April 30, 2022.
EXPOSURES: Urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites were classified into tertiles, and the lowest tertile was used as a reference category. The concentrations of phthalate metabolites and their composite scores based on clustering were also used in the analysis.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Serum concentrations of TT and SHBG were dichotomized into high TT levels (>46 ng/dL [to convert to nanomoles per liter, multiply by 0.0347] for age <50 years and >32 ng/dL for age ≥50 years) and low SHBG levels (<2.85 μg/mL [to convert to nanomoles per liter, multiply by 10.53]) as established for the female population. Obesity was defined as a body mass index of 30 or more (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared), and metabolic syndrome was defined using the National Cholesterol Education Program criteria. The serum concentrations of TT and SHBG were also included in the validation analyses. Modified Poisson models were used to estimate the adjusted relative risk (RR) with 95% CIs for the associations.
RESULTS: Among the 2004 women included in this study, the mean (SD) age was 46.6 (18.5) years (14.7% Hispanic participants, 62.7% non-Hispanic White participants, and 13.2% non-Hispanic Black participants; 17.4% of participants were born outside the US [weighted percentages]; 230 (11.8%) had high TT levels, 210 (10.4%) had low SHBG levels, 825 (39.8%) had obesity, and 965 (45.5%) had metabolic syndrome (weighted percentages). Of the 13 phthalate metabolites, 8 had the highest tertile level greater than 6.2 ng/mL (range, 0.5-75.2 ng/mL). High levels of exposure to mono(2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl) phthalate (RR, 1.84 [95% CI, 1.33-2.54]), mono(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate (RR, 1.77 [95% CI, 1.21-2.59]), mono(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate (RR, 1.94 [95% CI, 1.34-2.81]), and monobenzyl phthalate (RR, 1.75 [95% CI, 1.21-2.54]) were associated with low SHBG levels but not with high TT levels. High levels of exposure to some of these metabolites were also associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome. Most associations were specific to premenopausal or postmenopausal women.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this cross-sectional study, exposure to certain phthalate metabolites could be associated with low SHBG levels, obesity, and metabolic syndrome depending on menopausal status.