There are chemicals in your takeout

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Researchers found that people had 35 percent higher levels of phthalates (chemicals known to disrupt hormones) in their bodies if they had dined out in the previous 24 hours compared to those who had eaten only home-cooked meals. The elevated presence could increase your risks of certain health conditions.


“Phthalates can leach from industrial materials, conveyor belts, and food prep gloves,” says study author Julia Varshavsky, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar in the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. So it's not a matter of cleanliness; even food at the most sanitary of restaurants is exposed.

The chemicals, used mainly to make plastics more flexible and durable, are known to hurt fertility in both men and women, she adds. They’re also associated with health problems like breast and prostate cancers. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable, but more research needs to be done to figure out exactly what health risks are associated with short-term spikes in phthalate levels.


Until researchers know more, Varshavsky suggests eating home-cooked meals as much as possible. But never dining out is a tall order. Try to stick to plant-based foods at restaurants, since phthalates are found in higher levels in fatty foods and animal products like meat, cheese, and butter, she adds. If you’re grabbing takeout, choose places you know use cardboard or tin containers.