Are you eating an endocrine disruptor?
The pastry you’re thinking about buying may contain the preservative propyl paraben, linked to disruptions in hormone signaling.
According to ingredient data obtained by EWG’s Food Scores: Rate Your Plate, an online database and app that helps consumers eat healthier, propyl paraben is in 49 widely-available processed foods, including Sara Lee cinnamon rolls, Weight Watchers cakes and La Banderita Corn Tortillas.
Last year, EWG turned the spotlight on propyl paraben in its Dirty Dozen Guide To Food Additives because the federal Food and Drug Administration has listed its use in food as “Generally Recognized As Safe.” Despite mounting evidence that propyl paraben disrupts the endocrine system, the FDA has failed to take action to eliminate its use in food or reassess its safety.
In 2002 researchers at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health discovered that propyl paraben decreased sperm counts in young rats at and below the concentrations which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers safe for human consumption in food (Oishi 2002; 21CFR184.1670).
Other researchers have confirmed propyl paraben’s effects on the endocrine system. It acts as a synthetic estrogenic compound and can alter hormone signaling and gene expression (Routledge 1998; Terasaka 2006; Vo 2011; Wróbel 2014). A recent study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health suggested that exposure to propyl paraben might be associated with diminished fertility (Smith 2013).
Proper endocrine signaling is particularly important during critical windows of development—while in the womb and during childhood and adolescence. Chemicals that disrupt hormone signaling can lead to adverse effects on development, reproduction, and the neurological and immune systems.
Citing the study by the researchers in Tokyo, the European Food Safety Authority issued an advisory in 2004 that the presumed safe exposure level for propyl paraben in food was no longer valid because it affected sex hormones and the male reproductive organs in young rats (EFSA 2004). Based on that advice, in 2006, regulators removed propyl paraben from the list of food additives authorized for use in the European Union.
Propyl paraben is starting to disappear from some cosmetics, so it is a wonder that it is still allowed in food. If you browse the personal care product aisles in any drug store, you are likely to see labels advertising that certain body washes, lotions, and other items are “paraben free”. Under pressure from EWG and other health advocates, in August 2012 Johnson & Johnson voluntarily pledged to remove this and other members of the paraben family from all its baby products. Brands such as Alba, Origins and Burt’s Bees don’t use parabens at all.
Yet Americans are still widely exposed to this chemical. In 2010 research led by Antonia Calafat, Ph.D., a respected chemist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that 92.7 percent of Americans tested had propyl paraben in their urine (Calafat 2010).
via Propyl Paraben | EWG.
50 Foods Containing Propyl Paraben
- Amport Foods Chocolate & Nut Trail Mix
- Archer Farms Gourmet Dessert Cookies
- Arizona Snack Company Canyon Runner II Trail
- Arizona Snack Company Sweet Energy Trail
- Cafe Valley Apple Spice Mini Muffins Apple Spice
- Cafe Valley Banana Nut Mini Muffins
- Cafe Valley Blueberry Mini Muffins
- Cafe Valley Cake Pumpkin Cream Cheese
- Cafe Valley Chocolate Chips Mini Muffins
- Cafe Valley Corn Mini Muffins
- Cafe Valley Lemon Poppyseed Mini Muffins
- Cafe Valley Orange Cranberry Mini Muffins
- Cafe Valley Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins
- Creative Occasions Old Fashioned Carrot Cream Cheese Cake
- Elizabeth’s Naturals Psychedelic Sunday Mix
- Emerald Breakfast On The Go Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Nut & Granola Mix
- Energy Club Fancy Mojo Mix
- Energy Club Nuts N Chocolate Blend
- Entenmann’s Coconut Crunch Donuts
- Essential Everyday Classic Trail Mix
- Island Snacks Fancy Chocolate Mix
- La Banderita White Corn Tortillas
- La Banderita Yellow Corn Tortillas
- Little Debbie Pecan Spinwheels
- Newton’s Naturals Get The Munchies Trail Mix
- Nuevo Leon Tortillas
- Oh Yeah! Candies Chocolate Caramel
- Ole Mexican Foods Corn Tortillas
- Patissa Pumpkin Pie Cream Puffs
- Premium Orchard Rainbow Trail Mix
- Private Selection Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
- Quality Club Deluxe Moxxi Mix
- Roundy’s Cranberry Trail Mix
- Roundy’s Pak O Snax
- Sara Lee Cinnamon Rolls
- Sara Lee Honey Glazed Buns
- Setton Farms Hiker’s Trail Mix
- Superior Chocolate Nut Trail Mix
- Superior Mini Chocolate Eclairs
- Sweet P’s Bake Shop Black & White Cookies
- Tropical Corn Tortillas, Traditional Style
- Turano Brat & Sausage Rolls
- Weight Watchers Carrot Crème Cake
- Weight Watchers Chocolate Crème Cake
- Weight Watchers Golden Sponge Cake
- Weight Watchers Lemon Creme Cake
- Weight Watchers Red Velvet Creme Cake
- Weis Cross’n Country
- Weis Milk Chocolate Candies
Calafat AM, Ye X, Wong LY, Bishop AM, Needham LL. 2010. Urinary concentrations of four parabens in the U.S. population: NHANES 2005-2006. Environ Health Perspect. 118(5):679-85.
21CFR184.1670. Available: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=184.1670 [Accessed February 7, 2015]
EFSA. 2004. Opinion of the Scientific Panel on food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food (AFC) related to para hydroxybenzoates (E 214-219). EFSA Journal. 83, 1-26.
Oishi S. Effects of propyl paraben on the male reproductive system. Food Chem Toxicol. 2002 Dec;40(12):1807-13.
Routledge EJ, Parker J, Odum J, Ashby J, Sumpter JP. 1998. Some alkyl hydroxy benzoate preservatives (parabens) are estrogenic. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 153(1):12-9.
Smith KW, Souter I, Dimitriadis I, Ehrlich S, Williams PL, Calafat AM, Hauser R. 2013. Urinary paraben concentrations and ovarian aging among women from a fertility center. Environ Health Perspect. 121(11-12):1299-305.
Terasaka S, Inoue A, Tanji M, Kiyama R. 2006. Expression profiling of estrogen-responsive genes in breast cancer cells treated with alkylphenols, chlorinated phenols, parabens, or bis- and benzoylphenols for evaluation of estrogenic activity. Toxicol Lett. 163(2):130-41. Epub 2005 Nov 8.
Vo TT, Jung EM, Choi KC, Yu FH, Jeung EB. 2011. Estrogen receptor α is involved in the induction of Calbindin-D(9k) and progesterone receptor by parabens in GH3 cells: a biomarker gene for screening xenoestrogens. Steroids. 76(7):675-81.
Wróbel AM, Gregoraszczuk EL. 2014. Actions of methyl-, propyl- and butylparaben on estrogen receptor-α and -β and the progesterone receptor in MCF-7 cancer cells and non-cancerous MCF-10A cells. Toxicol Lett. 230(3):375-381
Dr. Court’s Comments:
Endocrine disruptors like parabens and others such as BPA, PFOA, phthalates, and PCBs are potent chemicals that surround us ubiquitously. Their ability to disrupt our hormonal system has lead to changes in how our bodies function. BPA was originally created as a synthetic estrogen, albeit a weak one. However, because we are exposed to it all the time, those weak estrogenic effects are magnified. BPA, PFOA, phthalates and PCBs are classified as obesogens. That means they cause weight gain. They do this by increasing the number of fat cells we have and increasing our ability to store fat. More fat cells storing more fat means we are increasingly overweight. Avoidance of these chemicals is probably impossible, however, do your best to minimize exposure. First and foremost, avoid processed foods. They are loaded with these chemicals. Secondly, buy products that specify ‘BPA free’ or ‘phthalate free.’ Last, but not least, exercise regularly to assist your body in detoxifying you system.