Exposure to a chemical commonly used in food packaging is associated with an increased risk of metabolic disease, a UK study has found.
Researchers analysed data from 1,455 adults aged 18-74 who took part in a US health survey in 2003/4 to see if exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a compound used in plastic food packaging, was associated with any of eight diseases.
The survey collected information on BMI, age, sex and smoking status, as well as urinary BPA concentration and any diagnosis of arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, liver disease, respiratory disease, stroke or thyroid disease.
High urinary BPA was associated with a diagnosis of CVD and diabetes, but not with the other diseases included in the study. It was also associated with raised levels of abnormal liver enzymes.
Those in the highest quartile of urinary BPA concentration were exposed to about 50 micrograms of BPA per day. They were 2.9 times more likely to have a diagnosis of CVD than those in the lowest quartile, who were exposed to about 10 micrograms of BPA per day. They were also 2.4 times more likely to have a diagnosis of diabetes.
Lead researcher Dr David Melzer, from the epidemiology and public health group of the Peninsula Medical School Exeter said: 'This is the first study showing a link between BPA exposure and CVD and diabetes in humans.'
He added that because the study was based on a one-off urine sample, it was too soon to introduce any new restrictions on BPA use.
'The risks are certainly big enough to investigate the role of this compound in the development of diabetes and CVD further. However, it is too early to say exactly how much it might contribute to diabetes and CVD risk,' he said.
JAMA 2008; 300: 1,303-10
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