COMMENTARY

BPA and Obesity: Is This Connection Real?

A Best Evidence Review

Charles P. Vega, MD

Disclosures

January 14, 2013

In This Article

Commentary

BPA is not polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), a compound used in industry and agriculture that has been definitively linked with higher risks for congenital anomalies and cancer.[9,10] The health effects of BPA are certainly less established, and the research into these effects is daunting because of the role of multiple confounding factors. Some of the strongest evidence of negative health effects of BPA is encountered in animal studies, but more research in humans is necessary.

Nonetheless, there has been a fairly strong movement to get ahead of the problem of BPA before its health risks are firmly established. Specifically, the United States, Canada, and the European Union have banned BPA from baby bottles.

The current study lends support to further restrictions on BPA. It fails to demonstrate a dose-response relationship between urinary BPA levels and the risk for obesity among children, but the threshold phenomenon associated with BPA appears to be common in previous research on the health risks of BPA and other possible toxins.[6,7,8] The finding that BPA was most associated with the risk for obesity among white children, as well as consistent findings that BPA levels are lower among Mexican Americans, are interesting and merit investigation as to how different racial and ethnic groups metabolize BPA. Levels being lower in Mexican Americans suggest that their metabolism may be faster and therefore they may be less likely to become obese due to BPA.

The collective research on the risk associated with BPA should prompt the evaluation of healthier alternative substances, particularly when oral exposure among humans is common. However, there is evidence that industry may be sacrificing innovation away from harmful substances and instead offering expedient replacement compounds that possess the same inherent risks as BPA.[11] This is an irresponsible and dangerous path to tread, and physicians should serve as advocates for the replacement of BPA in our food and water supply with safer alternatives.

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