By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter
Research published in JAMA demonstrates strong evidence of a link between childhood obesity and bisphenol A (BPA) exposure.
These findings add to those of previous research suggesting that BPA exposure may increase the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, reproductive disorders, and obesity in adults.
"This is the first association of an environmental chemical in childhood obesity in a large, nationally representative sample," said lead investigator Leonardo Trasande (New York University, USA) in a press statement.
"Our findings further demonstrate the need for a broader paradigm in the way we think about the obesity epidemic. Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity certainly contribute to increased fat mass, but the story clearly doesn't end there."
To investigate the effects of BPA exposure on body mass index (BMI) in children, Trasande and team carried out a cross-sectional analysis of 2838 children and adolescents aged 6 to 19 years. The children were randomly selected for urinary BPA measurement from those participating in the 2003 to 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.
Using a BMI at or above the 85th percentile for gender and age to classify overweight and a BMI at or above the 95th percentile to classify obesity, a respective 1047 (34.1%) and 590 (17.8%) children fell into these categories.
After controlling for a number of variables including ethnicity, age, gender, and caloric intake, children in the highest quartile for urinary BPA were nearly twice as likely to be obese as those in the lowest quartile, at rates of 22.3% versus 10.3%.
Of note, no association between exposure to other phenols commonly found in the environment, such as those found in sunscreens and soaps, and obesity was observed.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently banned the use of BPA in the manufacture of baby bottles and sippy cups, but decided against banning use of the chemical in other products such as aluminum cans and food packaging.
Trasande and co-authors argue that BPA in aluminum cans is likely to account for the greatest exposure risk to consumers, at least in the USA. "Removing it from aluminum cans is probably one of the best ways we can limit exposure," he suggested. "There are alternatives that manufacturers can use to line aluminum cans."
Commenting on the FDA ruling, the team writes: "We note the recent FDA ban of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, yet our findings raise questions about exposure to BPA in consumer products used by older children."
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