Obese kid

Though long suspected because of its endocrine disrupting effects on the body, a new study is the first of its kind to connect BPA exposure directly to obesity rates in children.

Bisphenol-A—the controversial chemical found in household plastic items, canned foods, sodas, and even in cash register receipts—was recently banned from infant formulas by the FDA for its health risks. It’s been banned or strictly regulated in countries including China, France and Canada. And the new research out of NYU’s School of Medicine now links BPA to an increased risk of childhood obesity, in particular, among white children.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study reviewed data on nearly 3,000 children ages 6 to 19, but only white children showed a singificant increased prevalence of obesity as levels of BPA increased. The children with the highest levels of BPA in their urine samples were five times more likely to also be obese than children with lower levels. Black children with higher levels of BPA were only 1.25 times more at risk of obesity than children with lower BPA levels, while Hispanics had the same rate of obesity regardless of levels of BPA.

The researchers found that the average BPA urinary concentration levels to be 2.8 nanograms per milliliter, which is higher than the average levels for adults. But the highest risk group had BPA urine levels that were at least double the average.

Heavily criticized by the chemical industry, the study confirms what many experts have long suspected. More than one in five U.S. children are clinically obese, and those rates are expected to continue to rise over the next decade. While diet itself plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body mass index, many health experts have been pointing to the impact additional factors, such as BPA exposure, have on the body’s ability to regulate body weight.

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Image: EmerandSam