Integrative Health Blog

How the Environment Can Impact Your Health: Part 2 - What’s in My Take Out?

Posted by Dawn Cannon MD, MS on Wed, Nov 10, 2021


While the Coronavirus pandemic has certainly taken its toll on in-restaurant dining, many of us have continued to feel comfortable ordering take out. But leaving aside for a moment the impact on the economy, there are likely health reasons to consider preparing your own food at home (food here is defined as anything your great-grandmother would have recognized as food).

The fact is that fast food samples have been found to contain chemical toxins, several of which have been linked to cancer, endocrine conditions, difficulty losing weight and testicular abnormalities. Chemical contamination of food may disproportionately impact marginalized groups, given the higher densities of fast food restaurants in neighborhoods predominantly populated by marginalized peoples.

One example is phthalates, the most commonly used of which is Diethlyhexyl Phthalate (DEHP). DEHP may be associated with alterations in thyroid hormone levels, and is a well-known male reproductive toxicant that induces cryptorchidism and changes in testicular testosterone.

3 Ways to Reduce Exposure

  • Since phthalates may also be used as a fragrance ingredient in personal or cleaning products and air freshener, choosing these products without “fragrance” in the ingredient list is helpful.
  • Avoid the phthalates in plastics by not cooking or microwaving in plastic containers.
  • Given phthalates may be found in fast food containers and even in the gloves used by food workers, there’s not much to do other than minimize the your take out consumption



If you've had difficulty losing weight, or keeping weight off once you've lost it, maybe endocrine-disrupting obesogens are partly to blame. Obesogens are chemicals linked to such weight problems. In fact, a 2018 study found that in women with higher levels of obesogens called PFASs (perfluoroalkyl substances) in their blood at the start of the study regained more weight than women with lower levels of the PFASs in their blood. PFASs have been found in many industrial and consumer products, including food packaging, paper and textile coatings, non-stick cookware, and even in your water. PFASs are extremely stable in the environment and take a long time to be eliminated by the human body (detox again), so the best approach is to avoid them where you can. 

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 Dr. Dawn Cannon, MD, MS, is an integrative physician at National Integrative Health Associates, serving the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. Her focus is Integrative medicine: adult primary care and preventive medicine, approached holistically. Her special interests include detoxification for the damaging effects of environmental exposures and toxins, women's health, and a functional medicine approach to finding the root cause of disease.


Topics: environmental medicine