Are Plastics The Reason Your Hemoglobin A1c Isn’t Improving? (Despite Your Best Effort)

When diabetics are trying to eliminate their need for blood sugar medicine by reversing diabetes, they and the doctor will be keeping a close eye on their hemoglobin A1c. As opposed to a spot glucose check which just tells you what your blood sugar is at that moment, HbA1c is a lab test that shows the average level of blood sugars (glucose) over the previous 3 months. (So, you won’t be able to blame that “cheat weekend” right before your test if it comes out high).

An elevated HbA1c greater than 5.7% indicates that diabetes is present and is in fact accelerating aging, increasing your chances of getting painful neuropathies, kidney failure, cataracts, amputations, retinopathy blindness or needing dialysis. If you you’ve been following a proper diet and exercising regularly to avoid these possibilities and the number isn’t coming down like you’d expect, it may be time to look a little deeper. 

One possible cause of an unregulated HbA1c could be an unrecognized B6 deficiency. A simple blood test should be able to tell whether your level is normal or not. The active form of B6 is needed to normalize the glycosylated hemoglobin that the A1c test measures. But say this is normal or you correct a deficiency and you still have the blood sugar problem. Where do you go next?

That would be to take a look at the trace mineral zinc. When a hidden zinc deficiency is present, the body cannot convert B6 to its active form. So, you add in some zinc to your diet if there is a deficiency and all should be well, right? Ideally, yes, but if the A1c is still being stubborn then it’s time to roll up the sleeves and dig even deeper.

Something may be interfering with your zinc metabolism, and that something could be phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals that act as binding agents and also make plastics flexible. There has been much debate over the safety of this group of chemicals that can be found in products that many people use every day. In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues. Yikes!

While it appears to be very hard to avoid phthalates altogether, there are steps you can take to minimize exposure, including avoiding products packaged in “recycling-code-3” plastic, products that include the vague ingredient “fragrance” on their label, and purchasing organic products packaged in glass as much as possible. And never heat foods in plastic containers in the microwave as it could leach out into what you are about to eat.

Beyond that, your best defense is a healthy lifestyle: eat good foods, exercise regularly, get some sunshine and keep stress levels as low as possible. Not only will these help keep your blood sugars in check, but they will help combat the damaging effects of chemicals that we may not be aware of already lurking in our bodies.