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Chemical BPA linked to children's obesity
BPA is used as an anti-corrosive in aluminum cans and is used to manufacture some plastics.
September 18th, 2012
03:24 PM ET

Chemical BPA linked to children's obesity

The chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, has a long and controversial history.

Used to manufacture some plastics – like the kinds in soda or water bottles – and as an anti-corrosive in aluminum cans, BPA has been under fire for some time from consumer advocacy groups.

The FDA recently banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups after concerns were raised about potential side effects on the “brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children,” according to the FDA website.

Still, the organization has stood by the overall safety of the chemical; in March the FDA denied the Natural Resources Defense Council’s petition to ban BPA outright.

Now a new study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association is adding more fuel to the flames.  The paper shows an association between BPA levels in children’s urine and obesity prevalence.
BPA is known to disrupt your body’s metabolic mechanisms, according to the study authors, which could affect your body’s ability to control its weight.

A previous study linked the chemical to adult obesity; this new study is the first to suggest a link between BPA and children's obesity, according to lead author Dr. Leonardo Trasande.  He adds children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental chemicals.

“Pound for pound, they breathe more air, they eat more food and drink more water,” he said.  Children’s organs are still developing, “so early harmful exposure can have permanent and lifelong consequences.”

The study

Researchers analyzed data from more than 2,800 children aged 6 to 19 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2008.

The children were placed into four groups based on the amount of BPA found in their urine samples.

In the group with the lowest levels of BPA, slightly more than 10% of the children were obese. In the second group, the percentage jumped significantly.

“Children with highest levels (of BPA) had more than twice the odds of being obese,” said Trasande.

Interestingly, the researchers found the association between obesity and BPA levels was concentrated in the white study participants, not in other racial or ethnic subgroups and admit they can't explain why this is.

“We know of no behavior in obese white children that characteristically increases their BPA,” Trasande said, noting that the association could be caused by genetics.

Caveats

As the medical journal’s editor-in-chief Dr. Howard Bauchner said, “This paper is speculative.”

It’s difficult to prove that BPA causes obesity without dosing a group of people with a specific amount of the chemical and placing them in an environmental bubble – a study that would obviously raise huge ethical concerns.

Trasande said it is possible that the association is actually a reverse association, meaning instead of BPA causing obesity, obesity causes higher levels of BPA.

For instance, researchers speculate the fatty tissue in obese children might store more BPA and release the chemical more frequently, altering the amount collected.

It’s also possible, Trasande said, that obese children might have dietary habits that could create higher levels of BPA in their bodies.  They might be more likely to drink canned soda or drink from plastic bottles than their thinner counterparts.

Takeaway

Trasande said it’s too early to make any recommendations about reducing your child’s BPA levels in order to prevent obesity.

“It is fair to say that if you reduce a child’s food consumption from canned sources you would reduce a child’s BPA levels,” he said, but noted that the implications of doing so are not yet understood.

Going forward

Environmental chemicals like BPA are more likely to affect children before the age of 6, when they are still rapidly developing.  The authors believe longitudinal studies – where researchers would track the same variables over a longer period of time - are needed to determine stronger associations.


soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Fatty

    Maybe the soda in the cans is making them fat. I'm not a doctor though...

    September 18, 2012 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • icecreamsunday

      nah. couldn't be.

      September 18, 2012 at 17:09 | Report abuse |
    • KJC

      Seriously. The article starts out that BPA is found in soda cans and bottles....I am just guessing this has something to do with it...could even be from drinking juice (which is also bad for you) or gatorade or other high-calorie drinks instead of water.

      September 20, 2012 at 18:04 | Report abuse |
    • Maggie McDuh

      I agree with y'all that the soda is probably a factor, but didn't you read that studies have shown BPA messes with your metabolism and that it's in water bottles and cans. I don't know about you, but I take bottled water with me when I'm out and about. My canned green beans have a non-corrosive liner in them and I'd bet that the bag my frozen veggies come in has BPA too. I'm a little concerned about this for myself and others who are trying to eat 'healthy'.

      September 22, 2012 at 06:51 | Report abuse |
  2. seriously

    yeah, it's not what you eat. it's what you eat it IN. sure.

    September 18, 2012 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 4sanity

      Of course the predominant effect is through excess calories but there is mounting scientific evidence to link chemical exposures to weight gain as well. Such environmental obesogens include BPA, phthalates, organotins, maternal smoking during pregnancy etc. How much of a contribution is being intensively studied. At the molecular level there are reliable studies that can demonstrate mechanistic links to how this happens. The difficulty is proving it at the epidemiological level in human populations over time.

      September 18, 2012 at 18:54 | Report abuse |
    • Wow

      Hey Dummy, these studies have been suppressed for DECADES by the companies that make these products. Just like the evil bio-terrorist company that is r aping our foods themselves like CORN.
      New French team of scientists NOT PAID FOR BY M ONSANTO have proven that GM corn causes tumors and organ failure. Go to uk daily mail to see report.Funny how our American news does not feature this devastating story. Independent studies have already proven that genetically modified crops are POISON and are a direct link to American obesity, diabetes, and heart failure.

      That is more important than this side-show we call politics.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
    • WOW

      I like to call people names and shout conspiracy and evil from the rooftops. have a great life!

      September 19, 2012 at 13:57 | Report abuse |
    • Wow

      I'm dumber than I look.

      September 19, 2012 at 13:59 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      You are right about the companies surpressing them. It's like the tobacco companies supressing the addictive substance of nicotine. Anything that disrupts your metaolism affects your thyroid, I know I experienced it, which ultimately made me gain 20 pounds in 3 days without changing any activities I was doing. As soon as my thyroid condition was fixed, the 20 pounds disappeared in 5 days without changing any activities I was doing. So everyone saying fat people are only caused by being lazy can go suck it. If you don't believe me, I have the Medical Records to prove it.

      September 19, 2012 at 15:56 | Report abuse |
  3. Robert

    The paper shows an association between BPA levels in children’s urine and obesity prevalence.

    So the fat kids who drink lots of soda in aluminum cans show a high level of BPA due to drinking lots of sodas in aluminum cans.

    Wow. Such research.

    September 18, 2012 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 4sanity

      Mmm, let see BPA is an "environmental estrogen" and endocrine disruptor shown to target multiple pathways including the classical estrogen nuclear hormone signaling pathway. In fact BPA was the first "synthetic estrogen" discovered and even used in people back in the mid-1930s until steroid based derivatives came along.

      Low levels of BPA can promote fat deposition and remodeling in animal studies. Over 2 million tons are produced annually in plastics manufacturing and consequently >95 % of people have measurable levels in their urine.

      As the article explains, it is always difficult to show causation of an effect but the evidence is certainly mounting that it is a cause for concern. Of course if you feel different please continue to use polycarbonate plastics for yourself and your children's food and water containers.

      September 18, 2012 at 19:03 | Report abuse |
    • rs

      Research on aquatic animals (frogs, fish) with BPA exposure has also turned up birth defects, undeveloped or misdeveloped male sex organs, etc.

      But lets ignore all that and throw caution out the window because its hard to test this on humans. Yep sounds good.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:01 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Who said they were drinking soda in the cans. They could have been drinkning tea or orange drinnk. Bad assumptions.

      September 19, 2012 at 15:59 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I'll recommend a simple way to test this. Take water and put it in glass bottles. Then take water and put it in the same size bottle made of materials said to contain BPA. Force a group to drink the water glass bottles and measure the urine for BPA for 6 months. Take weight measurements every week. Then force a group to drink the water in the BPA material bottles and measure the urine for BPA for 6 months. Take weight measurements every week. Then run a comparrative analysis and share the findings. I bet you will find that the same people drinking out of the BPA bottles will have higher weight gains and higher BPA than those drinking from glass bottles. I bet you would.

      September 19, 2012 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • KJC

      To Mark – read this sentence in the article about ethical concerns: "It’s difficult to prove that BPA causes obesity without dosing a group of people with a specific amount of the chemical and placing them in an environmental bubble – a study that would obviously raise huge ethical concerns." Are you volunteering your family to drink out of the plastic bottles?

      September 20, 2012 at 18:07 | Report abuse |
  4. Heinous Lester

    fact – the BPA in cans of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee is making kids fact. Gotcha.

    September 18, 2012 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • stymie

      I believe you are on point. When I was a little kid I was fed spaghettio's from a can daily. And, yes, I was a fat kid. The chemicals don't help, but eating all that crap from a can is what made me a fat kid. I'm now a chubby adult, grateful not to be obese. My kids are thin, and have never eaten a meal from a can.

      September 21, 2012 at 11:28 | Report abuse |
  5. Sam Chung

    So somehow the laws of thermodynamics don't apply to some people and the concept of consuming fewer calories than you burn is irrelevant now?

    September 19, 2012 at 00:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • grinch031

      To the "eat less, move more" crowd. How much we eat is not a function of personality as much as it is a function of our body's need for nutrients and energy. The scientific literature backs up the assertion that there are physiological factors affecting our eating that our beyond our own behavioral control. It is conceivable that BPA plays a role in excess food consumption, but not proven as the authors state. The best null hypothesis is to avoid artificial products and packaging as much as possible in favor of natural ones.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:17 | Report abuse |
    • KJC

      I think the issue is how many calories you burn when you're doing an activity or even when you're sitting still. The same two people can eat the same diet and exercise the same amount, but burn different numbers of calories, and thus have different BMI, etc. It's not like 30 minutes of walking = 200 calories for every single person or sitting on your butt = 30 calories per hour for every single person. So why then do some people's bodies burn calories at a different rate than others? Of course the person drinking BPA soda is gaining more weight than someone not, but what about if that person drank BPA-bottled water versus not BPA bottled water. That is the question we are trying to answer, not whether or not exercise will help you lose weight. Of course exercise is better than no exercise, but why does your exercise help you more than another person? Hard to say.

      September 20, 2012 at 18:11 | Report abuse |
  6. kelly

    This is pure speculation, of course, but I suspect that a lifestyle in which children tend towards obesity would also be one where they would be exposed to more BPA. More consumption of bottled beverages (the majority of which are highly sweetened); frequent consumption of prepackaged, canned food; and a lower frequency of eating meals made from scratch and consumption of fresh foods, overall.

    As a single mother working 12-16 hours a day, I understand it's a pain to go into the kitchen and make a good healthy meal after a long day. But it's what needs to happen if you want your children to be healthy. I promise, once the cooking habit is formed, it gets a lot easier. Bonus points because you wind up healthier and with more energy at the end of the day to continue the healthy cooking.

    September 19, 2012 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. kay

    BPA is also found in many white composite fillings. You know, the "tooth-colored" fillings you get at the dentist.

    September 19, 2012 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Katie

    The headline is grossly misleading. The study took a look at the possibility of BPA having something to do with obesity because white children are obese and tend to consume these products. White children also tend to have homes where everyone in the house has a television and a computer in his bedroom and there is a LOT of sitting in front of a computer screen. They also have two parents who work and who probably aren't too inclined to cook a proper meal. They probably were scheduled within an inch of their lives when very young and probably spent a lot of time eating in the car. Fast food, prepackaegd food, and constant snacking will make you obese.

    September 19, 2012 at 07:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. mre2

    Flawed study, incapable of reaching any meaningful conclusion. But it will get both the misguided activist politicians in an uproar, and the plastics council and lobbies too in response.

    September 19, 2012 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. NODAT1

    Saying BPA is the cause of obesity is like saying getting a divorce is caused by marriage its time the fat unhappy people start looking in the mirror and make the necessary changes. Stop trying to blame everyone else for your problems put the game controller down and go outside!!!!!!

    September 19, 2012 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Alex

    I would put my bet on too many days and nights sitting playing Wii or on a computer...just like adults.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. kathy

    An interesting and ethical study would be to take children with high levels of BPA and try to reduce those levels to see what effect it would have on their weight. Although either way it still seems to point to the fact that what they are eating is having a two-fold effect of causing obesity and high levels of BPA.

    September 19, 2012 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Burbank

    News flash! Selfish, lazy parents linked to childhood obesity!

    September 19, 2012 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. conspiracy

    I don't doubt for a moment that BPA is terribly bad as an absorbable chemical. I don't want my body absorbing anything but nutrients. But when the flavor of the story is that it makes you fat, people, like me, just discount it totally. because things like this give people an 'out'. it's not my fault, it's the container. it's not my choices, I can't help it. i think the majority COULD help it, if they tried and put together a support system for their willpower.

    September 19, 2012 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Wow

    I'm not sure that came out right. What I mean is, well I don't know what I mean. i'm heavily medicated.

    September 19, 2012 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Dr. John Rost, Chairman NAMPA

    Another new study on BPA, this one by New York University researchers attempting to link BPA to childhood obesity, is attracting headlines and hysteria. Unfortunately, like previous studies, this one is so fraught with technical limitations that even the authors admit it shows no causal link between BPA and childhood obesity. In fact, what the study doesn't say is more telling than the authors' tenuous interpretations.

    This study fails to address what food the children ate, how much, or what sort of physical activity they engaged in. Common sense tells us that these are the critical factors regarding what may or may not be causing obesity.

    What this study and the resulting media frenzy do tell us is that the real danger lies in the tendency to look for something to blame rather than to take responsibility for our own choices as parents and consumers.

    Dr. John M. Rost
    Chairman
    North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc.

    September 19, 2012 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. muffin72

    Common sense links parents feeding kids crap and hours in front of TV is causing obesity

    September 19, 2012 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kelly

      You got it!

      September 20, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
  18. Jim Caldwell

    Dr. Gupta/Ms. Cohen,
    I am so disappointed in your article because you missed the fundamental tenant of a warning – you incorrectly identified where the "risk" is found. BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastic (Lexan, Makrolon, etc). Polycarbonate is not and never has been used to package soda. It's only use for water containers are for the 5 gallon blue tinted jugs found at the "water cooler" not for individual servings of water. Soda and water are packaged in PET.
    When you miss fundamental, critical facts in your opening statement (and which can be easily fact checked) I'm left to wonder about the accuracy of the rest of your data. I rely on you to educate me. I trust you to get your facts correct. Please don't let us down.

    September 19, 2012 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Jim,
      While you are primarily correct, your statement that BPA "is not and has never been used to package soda" is erroneous. BPA is found in the epoxy coatings used on the interior of aluminum and steel cans to protect the metal from corrosion due to acidity. However, the article is also horrifically erroneous, as water and soda "bottles" are made from poly(ethylene terephthalate) which does not and has never contained BPA.

      September 20, 2012 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
  19. Adam

    The chemical products everyday, show its bad effect.....

    September 19, 2012 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Adam

    I'm going to agree that there's probably an association between being fat and drinking soda and between drinking soda (which is acidic) and degrades the BPA in bottles and liners. An interesting association, but very limited.

    September 20, 2012 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim Caldwell

      See above. Soda isn't in bottles made of BPA. But the Gupta/Cohen did not mention that "carbonless receipts like those you get at restaurants. Other paper products become contaminated when that paper is recycled.
      But the sloppy reporting from this blog doesn't mention those applications.

      September 20, 2012 at 08:36 | Report abuse |
    • Ilikepie

      Jim Caldwell is right and wrong. Jim, they are talking about BPA in soda CANS. not bottles. it lines the metallic cans to take away any 'metal' taste. and you are right about thermal receipts, you come into BPA contact in many places, including those receipts, credit card receipts, restaurant chits, bank slips etc. BPA is in many environmental places, not just actual food containers. is it bad? who knows really, like everything, I imagine a tremendous excess would be. but this is a crap study.

      September 20, 2012 at 09:55 | Report abuse |
  21. Jim Caldwell

    The article says soda bottles. That's my point. "Used to manufacture some plastics – like the kinds in soda or water bottles"

    It's sloppy writing and I expect better because this subject is important. He's a doctor – what else does he not get right?

    September 20, 2012 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. kitty

    I believe that the big food corporations and big drug companies have known that gmo corn and the by products of corn increase obesity. That is why they feed it to cattle to fatten them up at a faster rate so they can slaughter more of them and make more money. Anybody who believes that the government is going to protect us "cattle" is wearing rose colored glasses. If Americans get sick they go to the doctor and get drugs to make them feel better......so we get fat, we get on drugs, and who makes money off of us "cattle"? Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm

    September 20, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. ranch111

    Americans are too stupid and don't care what they put in their bodies. If it's not a "whole food", it doesn't go into my body.

    September 20, 2012 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Wrong Conclusion 101

    Obviously, people that consume more food and drinks will ingest more of the BPA contaminants. They are fat because they consume more and in the process intake more BPA, showing higher levels.

    September 20, 2012 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Tree

    Doesn't sound like a sound study.

    September 21, 2012 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 21, 2012 at 04:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Dan

    The FDA needs to go. They only protect the corporations. It goes way beyond BPA. Try all the chemicals that are allowed in our foods and of course accepted by the FDA. Vote YES to proposition 37 in California. We need our food to be labeled for GMO so we can decide for ourselves what not to eat.

    September 21, 2012 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. lee2jh

    Reblogged this on Public Issues and Public Health and commented:
    Recently there has been lots of talk of increased obesity within children. Progressively, the diets in children have shifted to instant or take-out foods. Poor choices in food leads to bad eating habits which invariably could cause obesity and other health problems. Now, the news media is claiming that chemical BPA is also linked to children's obesity. Chemical BPA is often found in plastics. The study that was conducted which led to this speculation was from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2008. The editor-in-chief Dr. Howard Bauchner has said that "this paper is speculative." Not necessarily that BPA causes obesity in children but the "speculation" is that the fatty tissues may store more BPA and release harmful chemicals more often than normal.

    September 21, 2012 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. guest11

    I see that Health Canada just released a report yesterday that states BPA is not an issue.
    Interesting that I do not see that anywhere on CNN.
    Scare story good – makes front page
    Safe story – why even cover it.

    September 28, 2012 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.