Bisphenol A, or BPA, the organic compound used in plastic food and water containers, has repeatedly come under fire for safety concerns. Now there is one more head-scratcher of a data point that parents should know about: the estrogen-like chemical may be making our kids fat, new research suggests.
Not all kids, however. Just white kids.
Consumer groups and public health officials have in recent years pointed to mounting evidence that BPA readily accumulates in the body's fat stores and can disrupt hormones that play crucial roles in sexual development, energy use and fat deposition. A 2010 report from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned of possible hazards to fetuses, infants, and young children. The use of BPA was banned in baby baby bottles in the US this year.
Now in a new study of nearly 3,000 children and teens, researchers found that kids with the highest levels of BPA in their urine were 2.6 times more likely to be obese compared to those with low levels of the chemical. However, the link was only statistically significant for caucasian children and adolescents. Connections between the highest levels of BPA and obesity weren’t found in black or Hispanic youngsters, according to researchers.
In the report, published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers clarify that their findings don't prove that BPA causes weight gain. There are many other factors that contribute to childhood obesity, most notably an unhealthy diet and low levels of physical activity.
Researchers aren't completely clear on what's going on here. Experimental studies have shown that BPA can make fat cells bigger. The chemical also has been shown to inhibit a hormone called adiponectin, which is involved in lowering heart disease risk. Because BPA is actually a weak synthetic estrogen, the chemical may also disrupt the balance of estrogen and testosterone, which may adversely affect caloric balance.
Deemed safe in adults in low levels, BPA has been used in food packaging, metal can linings, and medical goods since the 1960s, and traces of the chemical can be found in most Americans.
Do you pay attention to which products contain BPA when shopping for your kids? Let us know.