The chemical that is commonly found in plastic packaging and metal food containers, bisphenol-A (BPA), is said to be linked with early puberty, infertility, and cancer— but the latest study claims it may be connected to childhood obesity as well.
The study by PLOS One, a non-profit peer-review journal, took urine samples from 1,326 children, in grades four through 12, from three schools in China.
It found that girls between the ages of 9 and 12 with high levels of BPA were twice as likely to be obese than girls with low BPA levels.
There was no link between BPA and obesity in girls older than 12 , or with boys of any age.
BPA is a potential endocrine disruptor that impacts metabolic processes.
The report states that BPA is shown to suppress the release of adiponectin, a hormone that increases insulin. There is a biological possibility that BPA could lead to insulin resistance, which increases susceptibility to obesity.
In a U.S. representative sample, BPA was detected in more than 92 percent of urine samples including those from children, according to the report.
Although the researchers did consider obesity risk factors like diet and family history, the sample size for the study was small and based on urine samples, which is not ideally used to measure BPA levels.
“Don’t over-interpret the results,” Philip Gruppuso, Brown University pediatrics professor, told USA Today. “The major hazard may not be the plastic but the food the plastic is used to wrap up.”
The Food and Drug Adminstration states that exposure to low levels of BPA is not harmful.
Yet, the report did find that younger children have higher urine BPA level than adults, which indicates that young children are more susceptible to BPA.
The study was funded in part by National Natural Science Foundation of China.