Association between urinary phthalate biomarker concentrations and adiposity among postmenopausal women

Gabriela Vieyra, Susan E. Hankinson, Youssef Oulhote, Laura N. Vandenberg, Lesley Tinker, Jo Ann E. Manson, Aladdin H. Shadyab, Cynthia A. Thomson, Wei Bao, Matthew Allison, Andrew O. Odegaard, Katherine W. Reeves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Obesity is a leading risk factor for chronic diseases, potentially related to excess abdominal adiposity. Phthalates are environmental chemicals that have been suggested to act as obesogens, driving obesity risk. For the associations between phthalates and adiposity, prior studies have focused primarily on body mass index. We hypothesize that more refined measures of adiposity and fat distribution may provide greater insights into these associations given the role of central adiposity in chronic disease risk. Objectives: To evaluate associations between urinary phthalate biomarkers and both visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue (VAT and SAT) among postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). Methods: We included 1125 WHI participants with available, coincident measurements of urinary phthalate biomarkers (baseline, year 3) and VAT and SAT (baseline, year 3, year 6). VAT and SAT measurements were estimated from DXA scans. Multilevel mixed-effects models estimated the prospective associations between urinary phthalate biomarkers at baseline and VAT and SAT three years later. Results: In multivariable adjusted models, we observed positive associations between some phthalate biomarkers, including the sum of di-isobutyl phthalate (ΣDiBP) biomarkers, MCNP, and ΣDEHP, with VAT three years later. For example, we observed positive associations between concentrations of ΣDiBP and VAT (Q4 vs Q1 β = 7.15, 95% CI -1.76-16.06; Q3 vs Q1 β = 10.94, 95% CI 3.55–18.33). Associations were generally attenuated but remained significant after additional adjustment for SAT. MBzP was positively associated with SAT. Other phthalate biomarkers investigated (MEP, MCOP, MCPP, ΣDBP) were not significantly associated with VAT or SAT. Discussion: Based on robust measures of adiposity, this study provides supportive evidence that higher urinary concentrations of select phthalate compounds were associated with higher VAT levels over time in postmenopausal women. Efforts to replicate these findings are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115356
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Apr 1 2023


  • Biomarkers
  • Phthalates
  • Postmenopausal
  • Subcutaneous adiposity
  • Visceral adiposity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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