'Everywhere' chemicals wreck kids

The worst part of any packaged food may not be the highly processed ingredients like refined carbs and sugars.

It may not be the fact that most are loaded with genetically modified filler ingredients such as corn and soy.

It may not even be all the dyes, preservatives and other chemicals linked to everything from behavior problems in kids to cancers in adults.

No, the worst part of packaged food could actually be in the packaging itself -- the chemicals used in plastics that can leech into foods and then get into your body when you eat them.

They're bad for adults and even worse for children as two new studies show that common chemicals used in packaged food can set the stage for obesity and diabetes in kids.

One of those chemicals is a phthalate called DHEP often used in packaged food containers, and the first new study finds that kids with higher levels of it have a higher risk of insulin resistance.

That backs what we've seen in other studies, which show that phthalates such as DHEP can change how the body handles glucose and damage the genes that regulate insulin.

In the second study, researchers found that kids with higher levels of the BPA used in packaged  food containers, plastic bottles and canned goods have more body fat, higher BMI numbers and bigger waistlines.

Now, you might assume that children who have higher levels of these chemicals eat more junk, and kids who eat more junk are more likely to be fat and more prone to insulin resistance in the first place.

And while that might be true to a certain extent, the researchers adjusted for these and other risk factors and still found a solid link between the chemicals and the conditions.

Clearly, it's the chemicals at work here -- and that's not all they can do. BPA and phthalates are known endocrine disruptors that can mimic hormones, feminizing boys and causing early puberty in girls as well as behavior problems in both.

While the biggest risks are in children, these chemicals can also do a number on adults, and previous studies have linked to them everything from diabetes to early menopause.

Avoiding them isn't easy, but it's not impossible either -- and if you stick to fresh foods that don't come in packages, you'll minimize your exposure and protect yourself as well as the rest of your family.