Publications and Research

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

January 2012

Abstract

Phytoestrogens, phthalates, and phenols are estrogen-disrupting chemicals that have a pronounced effect at puberty. They are exogenous chemicals that are either plant-derived or man-made, and can alter the functions of the endocrine system and cause various health defects by interfering with the synthesis, metabolism, binding, or cellular responses of natural estrogens. Phytoestrogens, phthalates, and phenols are some of the potent estrogens detectable in urine. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived xenestrogens found in a wide variety of food products, like soy-based food, beverages, several fruits, and vegetables. Exposure to phytoestrogens can delay breast development and further lead to precocious puberty. The effect of phytoestrogens is mediated through estrogen receptors α and β or by binding with early immediate genes, such as jun and fos. Phthalates are multifunctional synthetic chemicals used in plastics, polyvinyl chloride products, cosmetics, hair spray, and children’s toys. Phthalates have been shown to cause defeminization, thelarche, precocious puberty, and an increase in breast and pubic hair in pubertal girls. However, reports are also available that show no association of phthalates with precocious puberty in girls. Phthalates can act through a receptor-mediated signaling pathway or affect the production of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone that has a direct effect on estrogen formation. Phenols like bisphenol A are industrial chemicals used mainly in the manufacture of polycarbonates and plastic materials. Bisphenol A has been shown to cause precocious puberty and earlier menarche in pubertal girls. Reports suggest that the neurotoxic effect of bisphenol A can be mediated either by competing with estradiol for binding with estrogen receptors or via the ERK/NK-kappa or ERRγ pathway. This review demonstrates the effects of phytoestrogens, phthalates, and phenols on the development of girls during puberty.

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