Environmental Health, Environmental Justice
Association between body mass index and waist circumference with urinary paraben concentrations among adults, NHANES 2005-2014
(School of Public Health (UMD) MIAEH Doctoral Student)
Objective: Parabens are a group of man-made chemicals commonly used as antimicrobial preservatives in cosmetics, food, and pharmaceuticals. While human exposure to select parabens is ubiquitous, their potential health effects have not been fully elucidated, and one recent animal study suggests that parabens may be linked to obesity. This cross-sectional study uses a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population to investigate the association between exposure to four parabens (methyl, ethyl, butyl, and propyl) with body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) in 5089 adults (>20 years). Approach: We use multivariate regression analysis to test these associations, controlling for age, gender, race/ethnicity, urinary creatinine, smoking, diet, and physical activity. Findings: Both BMI and WC were inversely associated with butyl, ethyl, methyl, and propyl parabens. BMI decreased by 1.29 (95% CI: -1.63, -0.94) kg/m2 and WC decreased by 3.23 (95% CI: -4.12, -2.35) cm for every unit increase in methyl paraben and BMI decrease by 0.98 (95% CI: -1.25, -0.72) kg/m2 and WC decreased by 2.52 (95% CI: -3.22, -1.82) cm for every unit increase in propyl paraben. Detection of butyl paraben was associated with a 1.50 (95% confidence interval (95% CI): 1.94, -1.06) kg/m2 decrease in BMI and a 3.68 (95% CI: -4.83, -2.52) cm decrease in WC and detection of ethyl paraben was associated with a 1.70 (95% CI: -2.19, -1.22) kg/m2 decrease in BMI and a 4.11 (95% CI: -5.21, -3.01) cm decrease in WC. Conclusions: Exposure to parabens was inversely associated with BMI and waist circumference in the U.S. general population. This association warrants further examination to confirm this finding. Public Health Significance: Obesity is a significant public health problem that has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. The role of chemicals or “obesogens” in obesity has garnered increased attention in the academic and policy communities, and was recently acknowledged by the Presidential Task Force on Childhood Obesity and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Strategic Plan for Obesity Research. Identifying potential environmental obesity risk factors is critical to improve and protect public health.