According to a recent nationally-representative United States study, children that had higher levels of the chemical bisphenol A in their urine were more likely to be overweight or obese. While chemical biphenyl A, commonly known as BPA, has been banned from baby bottles, it is still found in aluminum cans and other types of food packaging.
Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine analyzed data from a nationwide health and nutrition survey conducted between 2003 and 2008. The survey included data from approximately 3,000 children ranging from ages six to nineteen, who were weighed, measured, and had their urine tested for the presence of BPA. The children also completed a survey including a variety of questions about their respective diet and lifestyle. Researchers found that about one-third of the children surveyed were overweight, while eighteen percent were obese. On average, survey participants had close to three nanongrams, or three billionths of a gram, of BPA in every millimeter of urine. According to Dr. Leonardo Trasande, one of the researchers involved in the study, just over ten percent of children with the lowest levels of BPA in their urine were obese, compared to twenty percent of the children with the highest levels of BPA. The statistics accounted for variations in the survey participants age, race, gender, and overall caloric intake.
Although the link between BPA concentration levels and childhood obesity is strong, Dr. Trasande does not think these findings prove that BPA causes childhood obesity. Dr. Trasande said that while there are other theories that may account for childhood obesity, the findings point to hormone-like chemicals as one factor to consider in the rise of childhood obesity, after diet and exercise are taken into account. Other researchers such as Karin Michels, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, agree that there is “accumulating evidence” that BPA may be linked to obesity.
While this study establishes a strong link between BPA and childhood obesity, more research is underway to determine whether BPA actually causes childhood obesity. Pending the results of this ongoing research, Michels says that it makes sense to avoid polycarbonate bottles, aluminum cans, and other products containing BPA if other options are available, but there is no need to panic at this point.