Could food packaging cause childhood weight gain?

Children and teens with high levels of bisphenol A (BPA)—a chemical often used in food packaging and containers—are more likely to be overweight or obese, according to a new study in JAMA.

New York University researchers analyzed 2003-2008 data from a national health and nutrition survey of more than 2,800 children ages six to 19. About one-third of the children were overweight and 18% were obese.

The study found that about 22% of the surveyed children with the highest BPA levels in their urine were obese. In comparison, only 10% of children with the lowest BPA levels were obese.

However, the study only identified the correlation in white children. Among black and Hispanic children, the obesity rates remained the same regardless of BPA levels.

Although the connection between BPA levels and weight gain is unclear, lead study author Leonardo Trasande suggests that ingesting food with extra BPA could affect a child or teen's hormonal balance and disrupt his or her metabolism (Pittman, Reuters, 9/18).

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