New study finds metabolic risks associated with BPA

Higher levels of the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, in the body may increase a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study out of West Virginia University.

The findings, which were reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, are the latest to indicate a substantial risk associated with high levels of exposure to the chemical. Numerous previous studies have shown similar results.

Results from the study could carry significant implications, as BPA is widely used. It is a common component of plastics and is used to line aluminum cans for a range of food products. Because it is so widely utilized, the vast majority of individuals have some level of exposure to BPA.

For the present study, the researchers examined results from previous surveys that were conducted between 2003 and 2008. The results showed that individuals in the top quartile of BPA exposure as measured by urine samples were 50 percent more likely to have type 2 diabetes, compared to those in the bottom quartile. The results were consistent regardless of a participant's body mass index.

The team did point out that further research would be needed to confirm the association. Given the fact that urine samples were tested for BPA and type 2 diabetes at the same time, it would be impossible to say for sure that the chemical was present in the participants before they developed the metabolic condition or that there is a causal relationship.

However, previous studies came up with similar results. BPA is known as an endocrine disruptor due to the fact that it has a similar molecular composition as the sex hormone estradiol, a natural compound that is active in the onset of puberty, the function of sexual organs and aspects of the metabolic system.

A 2006 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives showed that mice injected with BPH secreted higher levels of insulin, which eventually led to insulin resistance. The researchers suggested guidelines for BPA exposure be lowered.

Still, little action has been taken on that front. While many products are coming out claiming to be BPA-free, the chemical remains largely unregulated in the U.S.