US study finds high BPA levels in children associated with higher obesity risk
Children who have higher levels of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical previously used in many products for children, such as baby bottles and plastic toys, had higher levels of obesity and adverse levels of body fat, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.
The research team measured the levels of BPA in children’s urine, and then measure body fat, waist circumference and cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors in a study published in August 2013 in the journal Pediatrics.
BPA was previously used widely in the manufacturing of polycarbonate and epoxy resins used in a variety of products for children, including baby bottles, protective coatings on metal food containers, plastic toys, and dental sealants.
“Studies in adults had shown an association between high BPA levels and obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but little was known about its effects in children,” said Donna Eng, MD, lead author of the study and recent graduate of the Pediatric Endochrinology Fellowship at CS Mott Children’s Hospital.
Higher levels of obesity and “abnormal waist circumference”
The study found that higher odds of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) above the 95th percentile by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, was associated with higher levels of urinary BPA. Researchers also found that children with higher BPA levels were more likely to have an abnormal waist circumference-to-height ratio.
The study did not find significant associations of BPA with any other chronic disease factors, including abnormal levels of cholesterol, insulin or glucose levels.
“Our study suggests a possible link between BPA exposure and childhood obesity. We therefore need more longitudinal studies to determine if there is a causal link between BPA and excess body fat,” said Dr Eng.
“We were surprised that our study did not find an association between BPA and measures of cardiovascular and diabetes risk, which has been established among adults,” said Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at CS Mott Children’s Hospital.
“Based on these results, BPA may not have adverse effects on cardiovascular and diabetes risk, but it’s certainly possible that the adverse effects of BPA could compound over time, with health effects that only later manifest in adulthood,” said Dr Lee.
Manufacturers have been voluntarily recalling BPA products because of the suspicion about the toxic effects on children and other vulnerable populations. Many countries, including Canada and members of the European Union, as well as several US States, have banned BPA use in products frequently used by infants and young children.
In July 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) announced that baby bottles and children’s drinking cups could no longer contain BPA. However, this restriction does not apply to other products containing BPA.
The researchers said they hoped the study would prompt more research into BPA’s effects that could inform future policy regulating children’s consumer products.
The research was supported by the Department of Pediatrics and the Office of the Vice President of Research, University of Michigan, through training grant support to Dr Eng (from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases), and through grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health.