A new study in which higher concentrations of bisphenol A (BPA) were found in obese children garnered significant attention in the media, with most sources noting that the study authors cautioned against making a cause-and-effect assumption. BPA is used to make some platics. Several news outlets also noted that the FDA has only partially banned the use of BPA in food and drink containers.
NBC Nightly News, in a story run on Sept. 18, reported, “Just when you think this nation’s obesity problem can’t get much worse, new numbers out tonight show it is. According to a new analysis of CDC numbers by the Trust for America’s Health, more than half the people in 39 states will be obese by the year 2030.” NBC added, “New research now underscores that a healthy diet and daily exercise may not be enough to avoid childhood obesity, an important factor that may contribute is also one of the most controversial chemicals found in the American diet, BPA.”
According to a down Dow Jones Newswire report on Sept. 19, obese children and adolescents have significantly higher levels of BPA in their urine compared with the BPA concentrations found in their normal-weight counterparts, according to a study published online in the Sept. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. (1)
According to USA Today, the study team at the NYU School of Medicine analyzed “CDC surveys of 2,838 kids and teens, ages 6 to 19” and found that “more than 22 percent of those with the highest BPA level in their urine were obese, compared to 10 percent of those with the lowest levels.” However, the researchers acknowledged that the study’s “design doesn’t allow them to definitely conclude” that BPA directly caused the children to become obese. According to CDC, more than “92 percent of Americans over age 6 have detectable levels” of BPA in their blood.
The Los Angeles Times points out that “indications of BPA’s ‘endocrine disrupting’ effects in humans has been weak and inconsistent, and as recently as July,” the Food and Drug Administration “reiterated its belief that BPA is safe for use in food containers.”
NPR on its Sept. 19 “Shots” blog reports that study author Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a professor at NYU, said, “Diet and physical activity are still the leading factors driving” the nation’s obesity epidemic.
The AP adds that the new study had a very “puzzling result: Significant differences were detected only in white children. For black and Hispanic kids, obesity rates were similar for those with the lowest levels of BPA as those with the largest amount.” The researchers were unable to “explain that finding.” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Director Linda Birnbaum said, “All this means is that the study raises some interesting questions, but at this point it’s impossible to say BPA causes childhood obesity.”
The CNN in its “The Chart” says even the “medical journal’s editor-in-chief Dr. Howard Bauchner said, ‘This paper is speculative.’”
The Huffington Post notes that a “study just last month appearing in the journal PLoS ONE linked higher urinary levels of BPA with a condition called coronary artery stenosis.” That research also “showed in a Circulation study that high BPA may be linked with an increased risk of heart disease.”
The FDA is to consider study during ongoing safety evaluation. FOX News on its website noted that the FDA “recently banned BPA from sippy cups and baby bottles – but did not extend the ban to other products.”
ABC News on its Health & Wellness page reports that in a statement, the FDA admitted that it “sees substantial uncertainties with respect to the overall interpretation of many published studies, and, particularly, their potential implications for human health effects of BPA exposure.”
NBC News in its “Vitals” blog notes that the FDA “called for more research because, officials said, it has ‘some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate glands of fetuses, infants, and children.’”
CBS News on its website adds that the agency said that Trasande’s study “will be considered in the FDA’s ongoing evaluation of the safety of BPA.”
Which all goes to show you the more you learn the more you have to study.
1. Trasande L, Attina T, Blustein J. Association Between Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration and Obesity Prevalence in Children and Adolescents JAMA. 2012;308(11):1113-1121. doi:10.1001/2012.jama.11461