Dietary correlates of urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations in 6-19 Year old children and adolescents

Document Type


Publication Date



Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, MaineHealth Institute for Research

Journal Title

Environmental research

MeSH Headings

Adolescent; Adult; Child; Diet; Environmental Exposure; Environmental Pollutants; Humans; Nutrition Surveys; Phthalic Acids; Young Adult


BACKGROUND: Children are vulnerable to adverse health effects associated with phthalates, and food is one source of exposure. A comprehensive analysis investigating urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations in relation to food type and source has yet to be undertaken. OBJECTIVES: We use reduced rank regression, a dimension reduction method, to identify dietary patterns associated with urinary phthalate metabolites in children in a large US study. METHODS: We used data from 2369 participants 6-19 years old from the 2011-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who recalled their diet over the 24 h prior to urine collection. We used dietary data to estimate intake and source (i.e., prepared at a restaurant vs. purchased from a grocery store) of 136 food groups. We used reduced rank regression to identify dietary patterns explaining variation in overall urinary concentrations of ∑di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate and seven phthalate metabolites. We also examined pairwise associations between food groups and urinary phthalate metabolites. RESULTS: We identified eight dietary patterns that cumulatively explained 12.1% of variation in urinary phthalate metabolites, including a dietary pattern characterized by certain starchy vegetables (e.g., plantains and lima beans), quick breads, and citrus juice prepared at a restaurant. A one SD increase in this food pattern score was associated with a 37.2% higher monocarboxyoctyl phthalate (MCOP) concentration (95% CI: 30.3, 44.4). We also observed weak associations between certain food groups and urinary phthalate metabolites (e.g., a one SD increase in intake of certain starchy vegetables prepared at a restaurant was associated with a 1.8% [95% CI: 0.7, 2.8] higher MCOP). CONCLUSIONS: Children whose diets were characterized by higher consumption of certain starchy vegetables, quick breads, and citrus juices prepared at a restaurant had higher urinary phthalate metabolites. More detailed information on the specific methods of food processing and details on packaging materials is needed.

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