Weight Loss

Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Found In Popular US Fast Foods

Millions of Americans eat fast food on a regular basis; many eat it every day. Fast food is everywhere and it’s easily accessible especially if you’re on the go and need something quick to eat. It’s safe to say: Americans love fast food.

While fast food may be widely available and relatively cheap, it’s not always what you think it is and it doesn’t always contain the ingredients that you think it does.

In fact, you may be left full of hormone-disrupting chemicals.

Foods Full Of Chemicals 

One study has shown that fast food often contains hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates, a group of chemicals that are used to make plastics more durable. Phthalates are often found in vinyl flooring, lubricating oils, and personal-care products such as soaps, shampoos, and hair sprays. Phthalates are also found in plastic packaging, garden hoses, and medical tubing. (1)

Since phthalates are found in packaging, which include food containers, as well as processing equipment and gloves, phthalates can leach into the food that they come into contact with during food processing. (2)

In order to conduct the study, researchers in San Antonio, Texas gathered 64 food samples from popular fast food chains including hamburger, cheese pizza, fries, chicken nuggets, chicken burritos and Tex Mex. During the study, 10 of the 11 phthalate chemicals they tested for, were found. 

Further, more than 80% of the food samples contained a phthalate called DnBP and 86% contained a plasticizer called DEHT which is commonly found in food handling gloves. Roughly 70% of the food contained DEHP. (4)

Foods that were categorized as meats or grains, such as the chicken nuggets, burritos, and hamburgers, had a higher exposure to DEHP and DiNP. (3) The cheese pizza was found to be the least contaminated while the fries were found to be DEHT-free. (4)

However, ortho-phthalates, or replacement plasticizers, were found in all of the food samples. 

How Phthalates Harm Your Body 

The phthalates DnBP and DEHP are endocrine disruptors that can interfere with the function of hormones by mimicking or blocking their effects or even disrupting the production of hormones. These chemicals interfere with the activity of your thyroid hormones and steroid hormones that include estrogen and testosterone which can play a part in reproductive issues. These issues can include reduced sperm count, and lower fertility in both males and females. (2,5) 

Phthalates are also known to play a role in developmental and metabolic disorders such as obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. One study revealed that exposure to phthalates can cause asthma in children while another study showed that exposure can cause brain impairment in children. (6,7)

Can You Avoid Phthalates In Food? 

The answer is not a simple yes or no, but it is possible to reduce your exposure to phthalates found in food. A simple way to reduce exposure is by reducing the amount of fast food you eat, since researchers believe that food handling gloves and packaging could be the main cause of high levels of phthalates. 

Read the product labels. Phthalates aren’t always listed on the labels, but when they are, they’re listed such as DHEP or DiBP.

With fast food, not only are you getting a large amount of saturated fat, trans fat, processed ingredients, salt and sugar, but it turns out you’re also getting a fair amount of hormone-disrupting chemicals too. Many of us already know and understand that a regular fast food habit itself can cause health issues, but adding hormone-disrupting phthalates to the mix can really dial up the risks. 

Learn how you can escape the “hormone hijack”. 


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Phthalates_FactSheet.html#:~:text=Phthalates%20are%20a%20group%20of,%2C%20shampoos%2C%20hair%20sprays).
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/hormone-disrupting-chemicals-found-in-popular-us-fast-foods
  3. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41370-021-00392-8
  4. https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20211027/would-you-like-phthalates-with-that-fast-food-contains-industrial-chemicals-report#1
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3554682/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6296560/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4488303/

Related Articles: