Association of urinary phenolic compounds, inflammatory bowel disease and chronic diarrheal symptoms: Evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Punyanganie S. de Silva, Xuan Yang, Joshua R. Korzenik, Rose H. Goldman, Kristopher L. Arheart, Alberto J. Caban-Martinez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Endocrine disruptors such as phenolic compounds and parabens may be involved in chronic non-infective disease. While products incorporating these compounds are extensively utilized in consumer and personal products, little is known about their effect on bowel health. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) - consisting of the diseases ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease - and irritable bowel syndrome are common chronic non-infectious diarrheal diseases. Despite limited knowledge on the etiology of IBD, these diseases have increased prevalence in industrialized countries and cause significant impairment to quality of life. In the present study we examine relationships between urinary environmental phenolic compounds, chronic diarrhea and inflammatory bowel disease. Data was obtained from the 2005–2010 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) including demographics, lifestyle factors, self-reported health conditions, inflammatory markers and urinary phenolic chemical concentrations. Only participants with complete environmental phenols & parabens component were included in our analysis. Chronic diarrheal symptoms were determined by using the 2009–2010 NHANES questionnaire which included questions pertaining to bowel health. We utilized chronic bowel leakage symptoms as a surrogate marker for chronic diarrhea. The presence of IBD was also analyzed from 2009 to 2010 NHANES data, as a sub-analysis for arthropathy directly querying the presence or absence of IBD. Among the subset of 5218 American adults aged 20–80 years in the NHANES study period who completed environmental phenols & parabens component, 25.5% reported chronic diarrheal symptoms. Abnormal markers of inflammation were present in 2200 (42.2%) of respondents. For IBD, 19 individuals with arthropathy confirmed a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, and 1 person confirmed a Crohn's diagnosis. After adjustment for demographics, inflammatory and subsample weighing; lower paraben levels were associated with chronic bowel leakage (diarrheal) symptoms. Higher 4-tert-octylphenol levels was significantly associated with ulcerative colitis. Further study of underlying mechanisms should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-626
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - 2017


  • Bisphenol
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Paraben
  • Ulcerative colitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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