Obesity is quickly becoming a national epidemic, with over 45% of the nation slated to be obese by 2030, and with some states destined to have obesity rates over 65%. The number of adults with diabetes is also skyrocketing, and the rate of diabetes is growing rapidly amongst children too. That is why it is becoming increasingly essential to understand the causes of obesity, especially when it affects children.
A recent study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found a provocative connection between the amounts of Bisphenol A (BPA) and the levels of obesity in children, and hints at the complex nature of weight gain.
Children with High Bisphenol A are More Likely to Be Obese
Almost all Americans have trace amounts of BPA in their bodies, but the study found that children with the highest amounts of BPA in their urine were twice as likely to be obese as opposed to the children with the lowest. While this connection is alarming, the researchers were quick to point out that there were many other reasons why children gain too much weight, and urged that people not draw hasty conclusions.
Dr Leonardo of NYU, the lead researcher on the paper, commented that,
“Clearly unhealthy diet and poor physical activity are the leading factors contributing to obesity in the United States, especially in children.”
He did go on to say however that this study shows that the causes of obesity are more complex than we imagined, and that this was the first national research study done to show a connection between chemicals in the environment and childhood obesity.
BPA Could Cause Obesity
Some experimental studies in animals have found that BPA can help cause obesity by making fat cells larger and disrupting the metabolism, while other studies have found correlations in adults between urinary BPA levels and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
The study was an examination of previously recorded data found in an annual federal health study, which weighed the children and also took blood and urine samples. Over 2,800 children were involved from the ages of six to nineteen, and the study was held between 2003 and 2008.
One strange aspect of the results in this new study was that the correlation between BPA and obesity was only found in white children. Hispanic and black children displayed no correlation, with high and low levels of BPA not being linked to weight gain of any particular kind.
The researchers went on to explain that just because there was high levels of BPA found in the urine of obese children does not imply causation; BPA is flushed from the body within hours, implying that possibly the obese children had a tendency to have eaten more recently from BPA containing containers. Further the study examined data in which only one urine sample was taken from each child, making it impossible to detect a pattern. Not only that, but the youngest child was merely 6, making it equally hard to gauge the effect of BPA on infants.
Thus while the results were suggestive and potentially alarming, at this point they are merely being treated as a source of further questions, and no declarations of BPA causing childhood obesity are being made. When reached for comment, Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences said, “It’s a hypothesis that needs further exploration.”
The American Chemistry Council, which represent chemical manufacturers, also offered a statement in which they declared that, “Attempts to link our national obesity problem to minute exposures to chemicals found in common, everyday products are a distraction from the real efforts underway to address this important national health issue.”