Parabens and their relation to obesity

Physiol Res. 2018 Nov 28;67(Suppl 3):S465-S472. doi: 10.33549/physiolres.934004.


Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives in the food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. They are known to possess estrogenic effects, and therefore have been classified as endocrine disruptors. In addition to the classical endocrine organs, other tissues have endocrine activity, including adipose tissue. Several chemicals are known to cause obesogenic effects, and parabens are currently being studied in this context. The aim of this study was to investigate the possible connections of paraben exposure and obesity. Blood plasma from 27 healthy women was collected during their menstrual cycle. Basal anthropometric measures, levels of parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben and propylparaben), adipokines (adiponectin, adipsin, leptin, resistin and visfatin) and hormones affecting energy balance and metabolic health (c-peptide, ghreline, GIP, GLP-1, glucagon, insulin, PAI-1) were measured. A Kolmogorov-Smirnov test showed higher methylparaben and propylparaben levels in women with BMI 25-34.9 compared to those with BMI 18.5-24.9. Plasma levels of methylparaben as well as the sum of parabens were positively associated with the plasma adipsin levels. Negative associations for methylparaben were found for glucagon, leptin and PAI-1. In accordance with other experimental studies we observed important associations of methylparaben and hormones affecting energy balance and metabolic health, indicating its obesogenic potential.

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / blood*
  • Adult
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Female
  • Food Preservatives / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Parabens / metabolism*
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / metabolism*


  • Adipokines
  • Food Preservatives
  • Parabens
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • methylparaben
  • propylparaben