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For the record

"Tinned food chemical alert"

On Wednesday 23rd November 2011, there was coverage of a study published in JAMA suggesting that consumption of canned produce resulted in increased amounts of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in the body. Coverage included BBC News, The Telegraph and Daily Mail

Here Professor Richard Sharpe, University of Edinburgh/MRC Centre for Reproductive Health and Society for Endocrinology Special Interest Group on Endocrine Disruptors, discusses the evidence for causal links between BPA and adverse health effects. In a previous For the record piece, Professor Sharpe had addressed stories linking exposure to BPA during pregnancy and aggressive behaviour in children, which described BPA as ‘gender-bending’.

"The study by Carwhile and colleagues is well-designed and executed. It fits with our understanding that food/diet is the primary source of human exposure to BPA, but demonstrates in dramatic fashion that repetitive consumption of canned soup can lead to markedly higher exposure to BPA. The big issue, unaddressed in this study, is whether this has any adverse health implications."

"The study measured the level of BPA in urine samples to document exposure, but what this measures is primarily inactive BPA. The best recent scientific evidence - from feeding studies in human volunteers1, along the lines used in the Carwhile study, shows that BPA is processed and excreted extremely rapidly, so that the amount that passes into the bloodstream in a biologically active form is so small that it cannot be measured. Therefore, although consumption of canned soup may dramatically increase the ingestion of BPA, it may still not result in significant exposure at the tissue level (outside of the gut)."

"On the wider level, there are now a number of studies that show associations between BPA exposure and obesity and metabolic-related diseases in cross-sections of the human population. What remains unresolved is whether BPA is a causal agent in such situations or whether its association with the disorders results from an unhealthy diet leading to greater exposure to BPA (ie it is the unhealthy diet that causes the disorders). The present study does not resolve this dilemma, but adds to the urgency for its resolution."


[1] Justin G. Teeguarden, Antonia M. Calafat, Xiaoyum Ye, Daniel R. Doerge, Mona I. Churchwell, Rudy Gunawan et al., 2011, Twenty-Four Hour Human Urine and Serum Profiles of Bisphenol A during High-Dietary Exposure, Toxological Sciences, 123 (1), 48-57 doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfr160

Document type: For The Record

Published: 23 November 2011

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