Common Chemicals Linked to Childhood Weight Gain and Increased Diabetes Risk
A new study suggests that two chemicals widely used in food packaging increase the risk of obesity and diabetes in children. Researchers at New York University compiled five years of health and nutrition data from 766 adolescents aged 12 to 19. The data included blood and urine samples which were later analyzed to determine the presence of BPA and phthalates. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an industrial chemical used to line aluminum cans and a particular type of phthalate is a common additive designed to soften plastic. Both chemicals have been found to leach into foods over time. The plastic softening phthalate found in urine samples was linked to a higher risk of insulin resistance in teenagers. BPA in the same samples positively correlated with higher rates of adolescent obesity. Insulin resistance and obesity are considered precursors to diabetes. Over the last 30 years the rates of childhood obesity have exploded in the US, doubling in children and tripling in adolescents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now consider one in six US children obese. While unhealthy diets and lack of exercise are widely cited for this increase, researchers are also increasingly focused on the role of environmental chemicals as as contributing factor. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned BPA from baby bottles, but refrained from issuing a more widespread ban, stating more research was needed before issuing further restrictions. Concerningly, there are no current regulations on the use of phthalates.
Source: Pediatrics, online August 19, 2013.
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