A new study suggests pregnant women may want to check the labels of their beauty products to keep their children from facing weight issues down the road. That’s because researchers found a link between cosmetics containing parabens used by mothers-to-be and an increased likelihood their children, especially girls, will become overweight.
Parabens are a chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and other body-care products. They serve as product preservatives and studies have indicated these chemicals mimic estrogens in the body and could interfere with the normal function of hormones.
Researchers detected parabens in the bloodstream of more than 600 pregnant women through the use of urine tests. While there are other potential sources such as preservatives in food, the surveys the women completed gave scientists an assurance the chemicals entered the bloodstream from makeup, body lotion, moisturizers and other “leave-on” products.
Women with the highest levels of urinary parabens were more likely to have children who were overweight by the age of eight. The biggest contributor was a compound called butylparaben. Kids from mothers who tested in the top-third in terms of butylparaben levels were twice as likely to be overweight than kids from those in the bottom third. And girls seemed to be impacted more than boys.
Researchers were quick to point out this does not necessarily mean the parabens are the reason for the heavy children because there are many factors that can contribute to excessive weight gain. But they did go an extra step and augment this study with a mouse experiment that showed similar results.
"This work adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that prenatal exposure to chemicals found in common consumer products may harm child growth and development," said Eva Tanner, a researcher at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine in New York City who reviewed the findings which were published in the journal Nature Communications.
Pregnant mice were exposed to butylparaben at amounts similar to those of the study women who recorded the highest urinary levels. Female offspring of those mice gained more body fat than the offspring of mice not exposed to butylparaben. Researchers believe the female offspring of the test mice tended to eat more because the parabens altered activity in a gene which helps regulate appetite.
Scientist Irina Lehmann of the Berlin Institute of Health and Charite at Berlin University Hospital in Germany said, "With the animal model we, in fact, could demonstrate that the weight increase is caused by this paraben."
Lehmann suggested pregnant and women who are breastfeeding look for paraben-free personal-care products and Tanner said since parabens stay in the body for only a short period of time women who can stop at any time to limit their exposure.