BPA Linked to Obesity in Children, Study Says
Children with high levels of BPA in their urine are more than twice as likely to be obese than children who have low levels, according to a new study. Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the lining of plastic and metal containers to keep foods and liquids free from bacterial contamination, was banned for use in baby bottles and sippy cups by the Food and Drug Administration on July 17, 2012.
The peer-reviewed study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that children in the lowest urinary BPA quartile had a lower prevalence of obesity (10.3%) than those in quartiles two (20.1%), three (19%), and four (22.3%). In the United States, 92.6% of persons six years or older have detectable BPA levels in their urine and dietary sources constitute 99% of BPA exposure. Obesity was not associated with exposure to chemicals commonly used in other consumer products, such as sunscreens and soaps. An association between urinary BPA concentrations and obesity was found among whites but not among blacks or Hispanics.
“It demonstrates the need for a broader paradigm in the way we think about childhood obesity,” says researcher Leonardo Trasande, MD. “We often think of it as a byproduct of an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity, but environmental exposures including chemicals may play a role, too… These data add to already existing concerns about BPA and further supports the call to limit exposure of BPA in this country, especially in children.”
The researchers state, however, that the results of the study could be “consistent with reverse causation – for example, with obese children ingesting more BPA containing food.” They comment that “we do not know whether the sources of calories consumed differ between obese and non-obese children. Obese children may drink more canned or bottled beverages, or eat more canned food, and thus have higher urinary BPA levels.”
The American Chemistry Council, a trade group that represents chemical makers, said in a statement that “attempts to link our national obesity problem to minute exposures to chemicals found in common, everyday products are a distraction from the real efforts underway to address this important national health issue. Due to inherent, fundamental limitations in this study, it is incapable of establishing any meaningful connection between BPA and obesity.”
Nearly one-third of children and teens in the United States are currently obese or overweight, and less than one-third of all children ages 6-17 engage in daily vigorous activity, defined as at least 20 minutes of physical activity that makes the child sweat and breathe hard. The United States is the ninth most obese country in the world.
American Chemistry Council, “New Study Provides No Evidence That BPA Causes Obesity,” americanchemistry.com, Sep. 18, 2012
Environment News Service, “Obesity Linked to Bisphenol A Urine Levels,” ens-newswire.com, Sep. 18, 2012
Allison Lichter, “BPA Associated With Obesity in Children and Teens,” blogs.wsj.com, Sep. 19, 2012
Sabrina Tavernise, “FDA Makes It Official: BPA Can’t Be Used in Baby Bottles and Cups,” nytimes.com, July 17, 2012
Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, “Association Between Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration and Obesity Prevalence in Children and Adolescents,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Sep. 19, 2012
Trust for America’s Health, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011,” healthyamericans.org, July 2011