BPA linked to obesity in children

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By David Liu, PHD

Saturday Oct 06, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) may increase risk of obesity in  children and adolescents, according to a new study in American Journal of Medical Association.

L. Trasande L at Department of Pediatrics, New York University School of Medicine in New York, NY and colleagues conducted the study and found children and adolescents who had higher urinary BPA were more likely to have obesity, compared with those who had lower levels of urinary BPA.

Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical, is commonly found in canned food, polycarbonate-bottled food and beverages, and other consumer products. In adults, high urinary BPA concentrations have already been found associated with obesity and incident coronary artery disease.

From this study of 2838 participants aged 6 to 19 years, Trasande et al. wanted to examine how urinary BPA is associated with risk of obesity in children.  Participants were randomly selected from the 2003-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys for measurement of urinary BPA concentration.

Among the participants, 1047 or 34.1% were overweight and 590 or 17.8% were obese. Overweight was defined as having an BMI of euqal or greater than 85th percentile for age/sex and obesity as having a BMI of equal or greater than 95th percentile.

After adjustment for race/ethnicity, age, caregiver education, poverty to income ratio, gender, serum cotinine level, caloric intake, television watching time, and urinary creatinine level, urinary BPA levels were associated with the incidence of obesity, lower levels linked to lower incidence of obesity.  

To be exact, children in the lowest quintile of urinary BPA had a 10.3 percent chance to be obese whereas those in the quintile 2, 3 and 4 had about a 20 percent chance to be obese.

The association between urinary BAP concentrations and obesity risk was significant among whites, but not blacks or Hispanics.

The researchers concluded "Urinary BPA concentration was significantly associated with obesity in this cross-sectional study of children and adolescents. Explanations of the association cannot rule out the possibility that obese children ingest food with higher BPA content or have greater adipose stores of BPA."

Plastics with number 3 and 7 in the recycle triangle sign may carry bisphenol A.  Generally, 3, 6 and 7 plastics are the worse, and 1,2  and 4 and relatively more friendly with number 5 in the middle.

The researchers of the study suspected that BPA intake may be the major route of exposure.  Thus in order to reduce exposure to BPA, one needs to reduce using processed food and beverages packaged in cans and plastic bottles or containers.

BPA has been associated with a wide range of health conditions including obesity, neurological disorders, the disruption of dopaminergic system, leukemia and testicular interstitial cell tumors in male rats, breast cancer, neuroblastoma, prostate cancer, impaired reproductive system and sexual dysfunction, and brain tumors among others.

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