The Effect of Exercise on Phthalate Ester Metabolite (PEM) Burden
Phthalates comprise one group of synthetic chemicals that are released into the environment in immense quantities. Although U.S. population samples have been found to have measurable levels of multiple phthalate metabolites, testing of the health effects of these phthalates has been limited. Phthalates are considered to be endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and as such, have been observed to underlie changes in sexual morphology, and possibly sexual behaviors. Other associations of phthalate burden with neurotoxicity have raised concerns about their effects on the aging brain.
Exercise is known to have beneficial effects on cognition and mood, and to increase the volume of gray and white matter in certain areas of the brain. The benefits of exercise are thought to be due, in part, to anti-inflammatory effects, a decrease in plasma cortisol, and increases in levels of BDNF and IGF-1. While phthalate metabolites are found in both sweat and urine in humans, sweating for most study subjects has, to date, has been induced by sauna. Given that exercise is more accessible than sauna for most individuals, this pilot study will measure levels of urinary phthalate metabolites in healthy 60-year-olds, and then assess the effect of a single exercise activity on the urinary excretion of these phthalate metabolites. Possible future studies from this pilot data could include prospective, longitudinal studies of the association of phthalate burden, cognitive function and exercise in later life.