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A new study is putting bisphenol A (also known as BPA, a chemical used in certain plastics and the lining of soda and food cans) on the map again. The researchers found links between high urine BPA levels and high body mass in a study of 3,000 youngsters and teens.The chemical has already been banned from baby bottles, but still persists in food packaging and other things, like some kinds of receipts. Because the chemical looks a lot like the hormone estrogen, researchers and the general public are worried that it may have negative effects, especially during development. (More on BPA’s potential risks.)
“This is the first association of an environmental chemical in childhood obesity in a large, nationally representative sample,” study researcher Leonardo Trasande, said in a statement from NYU Langone Medical centre. “Our findings further demonstrate the need for a broader paradigm in the way we think about the obesity epidemic. Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity certainly contribute to increased fat mass, but the story clearly doesn’t end there.”
The study was published in the Journal Of The American Medical Association on September 18. Here are the study’s findings, from the release:
Children with the highest levels of urinary BPA had 2.6 times higher odds of being obese than those with the lowest measures of urinary BPA. Among the participants with the highest levels, 22.3 per cent were obese compared with 10.3 per cent of the participants with the lowest levels.
Further analyses showed this association to be statistically significant in only one racial subpopulation, white children and adolescents.
“Most people agree the majority of BPA exposure in the United States comes from aluminium cans,” Trasande said. “This data adds to already existing concerns about BPA and further supports the call to limit exposure of BPA in this country, especially in children. Removing it from aluminium cans is probably one of the best ways we can limit exposure. There are alternatives that manufacturers can use to line aluminium cans.”
The scientific community is still split on the effects of BPA, and the American Chemical Council still stands behind the use of BPA in food packaging. From ABC News’ write up of the new study:
“Due to inherent, fundamental limitations in this study, it is incapable of establishing any meaningful connection between BPA and obesity,” [ACC] spokesman Steven Hentges said in a statement. “In particular, the study measures BPA exposure only after obesity has developed, which provides no information on what caused obesity to develop.”
Indeed, it could be that obese kids are simply more likely to consume canned food or products packaged in BPA-containing plastic, according to the study.
“Association does not prove causation,” said Charles Santerre, professor of food toxicology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. “America is obese, not because of BPA, but because we consume more calories than we burn.”
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