Updated: December 11, 2012 11:08AM
Kids with higher levels of the widely used substance BPA in their bodies are more likely to be obese, according to the first large-scale, nationally representative study to link an environmental chemical with obesity in children and teens.
Researchers from the NYU School of Medicine acknowledge that their study’s design doesn’t allow them to definitely conclude that BPA, or bisphenol A, caused the children’s obesity.
But the findings, in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association, add to a growing body of research questioning BPA’s safety, says Leonardo Trasande, the study’s main author.
In particular, the study adds to the notion that certain chemicals are “obesogens” that alter the body’s metabolism, making it harder for people to lose weight, even with diet and exercise, says Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who was not involved in the study. “Are we programming people to fail?” she asks.
Exposure to BPA — an estrogen-like chemical used in everything from plastic water bottles to the linings of metal cans and even the coatings on certain paper receipts — is nearly ubiquitous. More than 92 percent of Americans over age 6 have detectable levels in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new study drew on CDC surveys of 2,838 kids and teens, ages 6 to 19. Trasande found that more than 22 percent of those with the highest BPA levels in their urine were obese, compared with 10 percent of those with the lowest levels.
A study published last year, also based on CDC data, found similar patterns of obesity among American adults exposed to BPA.
To make sure that their results were reliable, authors of the new study weighed other important considerations — children’s races, ages, household incomes, sexes, exposure to tobacco, number of calories consumed each day, and number of hours spent watching TV.
Their results held up only for white children. In black and Hispanics, further analysis showed that the link between BPA and obesity could be a result of chance.
It’s possible that obese children consume more BPA, such as through canned soda, Trasande says. It’s also possible that obese children have higher BPA levels because the chemical is stored in, and later released from, fat.
Gannett News Service