All facets of society are bombarded with an array of chemicals each day, often the harmful effects are unknown, or not fully understood, until the chemical causes health problems. One of these chemicals, Bisphenol A (BPA) is a widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical used as the base compound in the manufacturing of some plastics, it is often used in food and beverage packaging. BPA exposure has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. While exposure to these chemicals is never ideal the health effects of long-term exposure are still relatively unknown.
“Studies in rodents are increasingly showing that BPA can have different effects in males and females, particularly in brain development and behavior,” said Kim Harley, adjunct associate professor of public health and associate director of CERCH. One such study was conducted to examine the action of environmentally relevant doses of BPA on glucose metabolism in mice during pregnancy and the impact of BPA exposure on the females later in life. The authors of the study also investigated the consequences of in utero exposure to BPA on metabolic parameters and pancreatic function in the offspring. The study found that BPA exposure during gestation had long term consequences for the mothers, at four months postpartum, treated females weighed more than untreated females and had higher plasma insulin, leptin, triglyceride, and glycerol levels and greater insulin resistance. As for the male offspring, at six months of age, the males exposed in utero had reduced glucose tolerance, increase insulin resistance, and altered blood parameters compared with the offspring of unexposed mothers.
The “developmental” or “fetal” origin of adult disease hypothesis states that environmental factors act early in life to program the risks of developing chronic diseases in adult life. In this study, the metabolic effects observed in mice prenatally exposed to BPA may be due to two factors: abnormal hormonal environment and altered glucose metabolism. This is most likely because the fetus is exposed to altered maternal metabolism since BPA crosses the placenta and because glucose tolerance, insulin, and leptin signaling during gestation are important for fetal growth. This study concluded that the test results suggest that the endocrine disruptor BPA should be evaluated as a possible risk factor for gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease associated with metabolic syndrome. The findings also suggest that fetal exposure predisposed males to type 2 diabetes in adulthood.
Additional research has found, white children exposed to high levels of bisphenol A are five times more likely to be obese than children with low levels, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “While our cross-sectional study cannot definitively confirm that [bisphenol A] contributes to heart disease or kidney dysfunction in children, together with our previous study of BPA and obesity, this new data adds to already existing concerns about BPA as a contributor to cardiovascular risk in children and adolescents,” researcher Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, of NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center, said in a press release. “It further supports the call to limit exposure to [bisphenol A] in this country, especially in children. Removing it from aluminum cans is probably one of the best ways we can limit exposure. There are alternatives that manufactures can use to line aluminum cans.”