A study by researchers at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the United Kingdom says that Bisphenol A-BPA-a chemical commonly used in plastic packaging and products, is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease.
The British research team looked at a 3,000-person cross-section of adults ages 18 to 74 who had participated in the landmark U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2006. NHANES, a series of U.S. national surveys that have been conducted since 1971, is an exhaustive collection of such disparate data as age, sex, ethnicity, education, income, weight, exercise habits, and more. It has resulted in the creation of a huge relational database that allows medical researchers to make correlations and cause-and-effect connections that they could not make before.
Among the NHANES data were measurements of BPA concentrations in the blood. The UK researchers found that people with higher BPA concentrations had a 42 percent increased risk for coronary heart disease and a 24 percent increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
BPA is an organic compound used in the production of plastics and resins. Often those products are used in the packaging of food and drink. The compound is also used to coat metal products, which include bottle tops, the inside of food cans, and the inner coating of water pipes. It also shows up in some dental sealants.
The problem with BPA is that it is an endocrine disruptor. Its molecular configuration allows it to mimic the body’s own hormones, but it is not controlled by any of the body’s built-in hormone regulators. This “rogue” hormone activity can lead to the inflammation that is one of the common markers of diabetes and coronary heart disease.
Although several U.S. states have restricted the use of BPA in baby bottles and certain food containers, there is as yet no overall ban on the compound, which is still commonly used in the production of containers for canned food.
Recommendations for avoiding exposure to BPA include:
- Limiting the consumption of canned foods and soft drinks
- Consuming beverages from glass or stainless steel containers
- Using glass or non-BPA-treated metal containers to store food
- Using ceramic or glass containers for microwaving
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