Mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate associated with insulin resistance and lower testosterone levels in a young population

Environ Pollut. 2017 Jun:225:112-117. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.03.037. Epub 2017 Mar 27.


Phthalates are commonly used as plasticizers and are reported to associate with testicular dysfunction or insulin resistance in different studies, but the concurrent relationship between phthalate exposure, testosterone levels, and insulin resistance in the young population is not well understood. We recruited 786 subjects aged 12-30 years from a population-based sample of Taiwanese adolescents and young adults from 2006 to 2008. Generalized additive models were used to evaluate glucose homeostasis and testicular function in relation to seven urinary phthalate metabolites among adolescents (aged 12-20) and young adults (aged 20-30) in Taiwan. We observed a trend toward a decrease in male testosterone and an increase in urinary mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP) levels across four quartiles of homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR). After adjusting for potential covariates, generalized additive models further showed that log-transformed insulin and HOMA-IR were raised by 0.055 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.027-0.082] and 0.056 (95% CI, 0.027-0.084), respectively, with a one-unit increase in log-transformed MEHP in young adults. In male adults (aged 22-30), the log-testosterone levels were reduced by 0.018 (95% CI, 0.001-0.036), with a one-unit of increase in log-transformed MEHP. Such relationships were not observed in adolescents. In conclusion, this study demonstrated age-related associations of urinary MEHP metabolites with impaired metabolic homeostasis of glucose that were only observed in young adults. In addition, MEHP exposure was concurrently associated with lower testosterone levels in young, male adults.

Keywords: Diabetes; Insulin resistance; Mono-2-ethylhexyl phthalate; Testosterone.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / analogs & derivatives*
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / toxicity
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / urine
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Environmental Pollutants / urine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Male
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Plasticizers
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Testosterone / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Insulin
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Plasticizers
  • Testosterone
  • phthalic acid
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate
  • mono-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate