Study Suggests Tie Between BPA and Child Obesity
NEW YORK - A provocative new study suggests a connection between the BPA chemical used in food packaging and childhood obesity but the researchers say their findings don’t prove it’s the cause.
While most people have traces of the plastics chemical in their bodies, the study found that children with the highest levels in their urine were twice as likely to be obese than those with the lowest.
There are other factors that could explain the results, and many reasons why children gain too much weight, the researchers said.
"Clearly unhealthy diet and poor physical activity are the leading factors contributing to obesity in the United States, especially in children," said lead author Dr. Leonardo Trasande of New York University.
But the study does hint that causes of childhood obesity may be more complicated, he added. He said it is the first national research to tie a chemical from the environment to childhood obesity, and seems to echo what some studies have seen in adults.
One puzzling result: Significant differences were only detected in white children. For black and Hispanic kids, obesity rates were similar for those with the lowest levels of BPA as those with the largest amount. The researchers couldn’t explain that finding.
The study was published in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.
BPA, or bisphenol A, has been used since the 1960s and become so widespread that it’s found in virtually all Americans. Government health officials have deemed low levels of it to be safe, but haven’t been able to decide what amount of BPA - if any - would be a health concern.
BPA is used in hardened plastics, food packaging, to line metal cans and other consumer and medical goods. Environmental groups have worried it interferes with children’s development, and this year the Food and Drug Administration announced the chemical would be phased out of baby bottles and sippy cups.
Some experimental studies on animals have found that BPA can aid obesity by disrupting metabolism and helping to make fat cells larger. And studies have suggested a possible tie between urinary BPA levels and obesity-related illnesses in adults, including diabetes and heart disease.