A new study from Harvard School of Public Health and published in the journal Environmental Health found that commonly-found toxins in plastics are linked to both general obesity and abdominal obesity. Known as Bisphenol A or BPA for short, these hormone disruptors have been primarily found in plastic, including plastic food and beverage packaging.
Harvard scientists studied the effects of BPA to see low-dose exposures of the toxin increased abdominal or general fat in humans. They were aware of previous studies showing that low-dose BPA increased obesity in rodents. The scientists assessed the urinary BPA concentrations, body mass index, and waist circumference in 2747 adult men and women ranging in age from 18 to 74.
BPA can be found as a component of some types of plastic bottles, and also in the lining inside of canned foods.
Since BPA is a known ”xenoestrogen”, it’s been linked in animal studies (at surprisingly small doses) to all sorts of various health issues such as cancer, metabolic disorders, heart disease, diabetes, and fertility problems and birth defects or miscarriages… and of course, any xenoestrogens in large enough amounts can trigger your body to hold onto abdominal fat (aka – stubborn belly fat).
The major offenders to look for are polycarbonate bottles (some plastics with the #7 symbol on the bottom are polycarbonate, but not all) and also canned foods, since the lining of most canned foods contains BPA, which can leach into food. The longer that a can of food sits on a shelf and the higher the temperature, the more BPA can leach into your food. The same can be said for polycarbonate bottles that contain food or drinks.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), BPA was detected in the bodies of 95% of Americans in one CDC study (this is a worldwide issue though, not just limited to the US).
The Environmental Working Group reports, “analysis of our tests reveals that for one of every five cans tested, and for one-third of all vegetables and pastas (ravioli and noodles with tomato sauce), a single serving would expose a pregnant woman to BPA at levels that fall within a factor of 5 of doses linked to birth defects — permanent damage of developing male reproductive organs“.
Their findings aren’t surprising given the toxin is a known hormone and metabolism disruptor. The higher the urinary concentrations of BPA (indicating higher exposures), the more likely a person was obese and experiencing abdominal obesity. The adults with the highest amounts of BPA in their urine were 75 percent more likely to be obese than those with the lowest amounts of BPA.
They concluded that “higher BPA exposure is associated with general and central obesity in the general adult population in the United States.”
As a result of studies like the Harvard one, toxins like BPA, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and phthalates are increasingly being referred to as “obesogens.”
What Can You Do To Avoid BPA?
1. Try to always avoid canned foods as much as possible and choose frozen or fresh foods instead. Buy the ingredients yourself and prepare the meal the old fashioned way instead of resorting to canned foods. Also, a better alternative to canned foods is products in glass containers.
2. If you do resort to using canned foods instead of fresh foods, try to find labels that say that the cans are free of BPA.
3. If you need tomato products, always avoid canned varieties and search for tomato sauces, pastes, etc in glass bottles instead (unless the can specifically states that it is BPA-free). Or just make your own tomato dishes from scratch with fresh tomatoes.
4. If you use plastic wrap, plastic ziplock bags, plastic containers for food storage, etc, try to investigate on the label if the product is BPA-free or not. Some brands packaging will label if their products are BPA-free.
5. If you for some reason choose to use a microwave with your food (which by the way, microwaved food is thought to have negative health effects), then by all means, do not microwave the food in plastic containers as it can increase the leaching of chemicals including BPA.
6. If you drink bottled water, or water from reusable plastic bottles, make sure that it is not a polycarbonate bottle, or make sure that the label says BPA-free. Plastic that shows #7 on the bottom will sometimes contain BPA, but not always. If a bottle shows “PC” on the bottom, it is made from polycarbonate, so it will contain BPA. In addition, sometimes aluminum bottles will contain a lining that has BPA, so avoid these.
7. Never use plastic cups for hot liquids such as hot tea or coffee, as this can accelerate leaching of BPA and other chemicals, depending on the type of plastic.