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Blue Girl comments on recent research showing that phthalates (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, pronounced THAL-ates) may be one of the causes of skyrocketing childhood obesity:

I spent a significant portion of a 24-year career in endocrine research. In the first fifteen years, I did not see a single case of Type II [diabetes] in a juvenile.  Toward the end, I routinely taught diabetic education counseling classes that were geared exclusively to groups of teenagers….That is a lot of diabetic kids.  And what I can tell you anecdotally is that every single one of the things that have gotten the blame for the epidemic I have observed to exist, so this is a ‘big picture’ problem if ever there was one.    

Diet and exercise can not be discounted, we have always had chubby kids who didn’t eat a proper diet or get enough exercise, but very few were considered obese, and literally none of them were diagnosed with Type II diabetes, a disorder of the endocrine system….But we can’t overlook the revolution in food packaging over the last thirty years or so, either.  When I was a kid, in the 60s and 70s, soda pop (which wasn’t made from corn syrup back then) came in aluminum cans or glass bottles, not in plastic; and meat came in butcher paper, not polystyrene trays and plastic wrap.

Childhood obesity is far higher than it used to be, but it’s not brand new: there have always been kids who were sedentary and ate lots of crappy food.  But 30 years ago, these kids just got flabby, they didn’t get diabetes.  Today they do, and it’s possible that phthalates may play a role in this.  More research, please.

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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