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Controversial study claims BPA causes obesity

By Jenny EAGLE , 21-Aug-2013

BPA exposure may 'cause' obesity.
BPA exposure may 'cause' obesity.

Children exposed to two chemicals used in food packaging are likely to be obese or show signs of diabetes than those with lower exposure, said a pediatrician from New York University.

Dr Leonardo Trasande told Reuters Health Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) and bisphenol A may influence how the body secretes insulin in response to sugar and parents should avoid buying plastics made with DEHP.

DEHP is used to soften plastic bottles.

'Throw it away'

"I advise them not to wash plastic containers in the dishwasher," he said. And, "When the plastic is clearly etched or damaged, it's time to throw it away."

As part of Trasande’s study, researchers at the university found urine levels of DEHP were tied to a higher risk of insulin resistance among teenagers and BPA (used to line aluminium cans) was linked to obesity and larger waists in teens.

However, Steven Hentges, of the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group of the ACC (The American Chemistry Council) has slammed the results insisting BPA exposure is not likely to cause obesity.

A distraction from real efforts

He added attempts to link our national obesity problem to minute exposures to chemicals found in common, everyday products are a distraction from the real efforts to address this national health issue.

It is well-established in scientific literature that BPA is rapidly eliminated from the body such that single urine biomonitoring samples indicate only very recent exposure,” said Hentges.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims nearly one in six US children and teenagers are obese.

"Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are the drivers of this epidemic, but increasingly environmental chemicals are being identified as possible contributors," reported Trasande.

Nation-wide study

He and his colleagues analyzed data from a nation-wide health and nutrition survey from 2003 to 2008, which included urine and blood tests for 766 adolescents aged 12 to 19.

According to Reuters Health, they found urinary levels of DEHP, were closely tied to a teenager's chance of having insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes and just under 15% of participants with the lowest one-third of DEHP levels were insulin resistant, compared to almost 22% of those with the highest levels.

The researchers concluded their findings don't prove eating food packaged with phthalates causes insulin resistance.

Hentges agreed and said as with other studies of this nature, due to the inherent, fundamental limitations, it is incapable of establishing any meaningful connection between BPA and obesity, or any other chronic disease. 

Lack of information on BPA exposure

Such samples provide essentially no information about BPA exposure in previous months or years when the chronic disease in these subjects would have developed,” he said.

More relevant to actual, real-world safety is the recent, robust research funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and conducted by scientists at the government’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Consistent with previous human and animal studies, the Pacific Northwest study indicates, because of the way BPA is processed in the body, it is very unlikely it could cause health effects at any realistic exposure level

Furthermore, regulators from Europe to Japan to the U.S. have recently reviewed hundreds of studies on BPA and repeatedly supported the continued safe use of BPA,” he added.

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