Researchers Link BPA to Substantial Risk of Metabolic Syndrome in Humans

New research from the University of Cincinnati finds that BPA is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome, with “average exposure” to the chemical, found in polycarbonate plastics. The report is published online, August 14 in the Journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Metabolic syndrome, a cluster of problems that leads to heart disease, stroke and diabetes, affects 25% of Americans, according to the American Heart Association. The primary components of metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, abdominal obesity, and insulin resistance or glucose intolerance.

Past research has focused on the health risks of high exposure levels to Bisphenol A (BPA). A multitude of studies have also been performed on mice. Nira Ben-Jonathan, PhD, and colleagues are the first team to study the effects of average exposure BPA on human tissue. The group found that BPA inhibits adiponectin, an important hormone that regulates insulin sensitivity, placing humans at substantial risk for metabolic syndrome. Adiponectin also helps in the prevention of heart attacks, by keeping the lining of the blood vessels healthy. Low levels are associated with obesity.

The authors of the current study suggest, “The incidence of obesity has risen dramatically over the last few decades. While most attention has focused on high caloric diet and sedentary life style as the root causes, the role of environmental factors is gaining credence. They also write, “Bisphenol A (BPA), a monomer of polycarbonate plastics, is one of the highest volume chemicals in commerce” and “can easily accumulate in fat”.

Dr. Ben-Jonathan, who has been studying BPA for ten years says, "People have serious concerns about the potential health effects of BPA. As the scientific evidence continues to mount against the chemical, it should be given serious attention to minimize future harm."

The study concludes: “Differences of opinion and disagreements over data interpretation underlie the inability of several expert panels, convened periodically since 1999, to convince regulatory agencies that BPA poses hazards to human health. There is a growing recognition that the roles of genetic predisposition and environmental factors in the epidemic of obesity and related diseases should not be ignored. Given the endurance of BPA in the environment, its presence in serum from humans worldwide, and the suppression of adiponectin release at nanomolar concentrations, BPA may indeed be the bona fide endocrine disruptor that adversely affects metabolic homeostasis and its manifestations.

The study results come just in time for the September 16, 2008 meeting of the Federal Drug Administration, addressing the safety of Bisphenol A.

Related: Was There Life Before Polycarbonate Plastic? BPA Update