Bisphenol A and Phthalates in Diet: An Emerging Link with Pregnancy Complications

Nutrients. 2020 Feb 19;12(2):525. doi: 10.3390/nu12020525.


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are exogenous substances that are able to interfere with hormone action, likely contributing to the development of several endocrine and metabolic diseases. Among them, Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates contaminate food and water and have been largely studied as obesogenic agents. They might contribute to weight gain, insulin resistance and pancreatic β-cell dysfunction in pregnancy, potentially playing a role in the development of pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), and adverse outcomes. Pregnancy and childhood are sensitive windows of susceptibility, and, although with not univocal results, preclinical and clinical studies have suggested that exposure to BPA and phthalates at these stages of life might have an impact on the development of metabolic diseases even many years later. The molecular mechanisms underlying this association are largely unknown, but adipocyte and pancreatic β-cell dysfunction are suspected to be involved. Remarkably, transgenerational damage has been observed, which might be explained by epigenetic changes. Further research is needed to address knowledge gaps and to provide preventive measure to limit health risks connected with exposure to EDCs.

Keywords: BPA; bisphenol A; diet; endocrine disruptors; endocrine-disrupting chemicals; gestational diabetes; phthalates; pregnancy; pregnancy outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzhydryl Compounds / toxicity
  • Diabetes, Gestational / chemically induced
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Phenols / toxicity
  • Phthalic Acids / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / chemically induced*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Phenols
  • Phthalic Acids
  • phthalic acid
  • bisphenol A