BPA Linked to Obesity in Kids
Bisphenol-A (BPA), a very common chemical compound used to make plastics, has been under a great deal of scrutiny over the past several years due to its link to various health problems. This list is extensive, spanning from reproductive and thyroid problems to cancer. Children appear to be most vulnerable to the effects of BPA, which is why the FDA recently banned its use in the manufacture of plastic baby bottles and toddler cups.
Now, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows how long-term exposure to BPA in children can increase the risk of one of the biggest epidemics of our time—obesity.1
It is nearly impossible to avoid exposure to BPA, with almost 93% of people ages 6 and older having detectable levels in their urine.2 Even more disturbing is that almost all of the exposure comes from dietary sources.
In their study, researchers examined the urinary BPA concentrations and body mass index of 2,838 children aged 6 to 19. The results were divided into four quartiles, or groups. Controlling for a variety of factors—including race, age, poverty-to-income ratio, sex, caloric intake, and television watching—researchers found that the children in the first quartile, who had the lowest urinary output of BPA, also had the lowest incidence of obesity (10.3%). The children in the second and third quartiles had a 20.1% and 19% incidence of obesity, respectively. The fourth quartile, with the highest urinary output of BPA, had a 22.3% rate of obesity.
Compared to the kids in the first quartile, those in the third quartile had twice the odds for obesity, while the children in the fourth quartile had 2.6 higher odds of obesity.
Can You Avoid BPA?
Unfortunately, avoiding BPA completely is nearly impossible because it is so ubiquitous. But there are a few steps you can take to limit your exposure:
- Buy bottles and containers specifically labeled “BPA-free.”
- Limit your consumption of canned food. The lining of most canned food contains BPA, which often leaches into the food. If you do eat canned food, rinse it prior to consumption (if possible) to lessen the amount of BPA you ingest.
- Avoid plastics. Plastics with the #7 recycling code are made from a rigid polycarbonate often found in food storage containers and reusable water bottles. Not all #7 plastics contain BPA, but a lot of them do, so it’s best to avoid them. The other numbered plastics do not contain BPA, with numbers 1, 2, and 4 your safest options.
- Don’t heat plastic in the microwave. Use a glass container or plate to warm food or liquids. Heating plastic could cause chemicals to leach into foods or beverages.
1. Trasande L, et al. Association between urinary bisphenol A concentration and obesity prevalence in children and adolescents. JAMA. 2012 Set 19;308(11):1113-21.
Larissa Long has worked in the health care communications field for more than 13 years. She co-authored a self-care book titled Taking Care, has written countless tip sheets and e-letters on health topics, and contributed several articles to Natural Solutions magazine. She also served as managing editor of three alternative health and lifestyle newsletters — Dr. Susan Lark’s Women’s Wellness Today, Dr. David Williams’ Alternatives, and Janet Luhrs’ Simple Living.
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