COMMENTARY | Is an everyday chemical making us fat and sick? According to the Huffington Post, a new study shows that one of the most commonly used chemicals, BPA, is directly linked to obesity and insulin resistance. The study, which was published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, found a direct relationship between blood levels of BPA (bisphenol A) and occurrence of insulin resistance and obesity. The study involved 3,390 adults over age 40 in the Shanghai province of China. The highest levels of BPA in the urine corresponded to the highest generalized obesity, abdomen circumference, and other measures of insulin resistance. If you're trying to lose weight, you may need to give up the plastics and canned food as well as the french fries.
What I'm wondering is, why did it take so long to figure this out? Bisphenol A is one of the most widely used chemicals in use today. It is found most prominently in canned foods and plastic bottles and utensils, including those used for babies. The Huffington Post article describes in detail what BPA does in the body, and it reads like a horror movie about a science experiment gone bad. What will it take for the Food and Drug Administration to get serious about protecting us from a chemical that triggers nearly twice the insulin response of real food?
It could be worse. The FDA is better at protecting us than the Maltese government was when I lived there. Just miles from me there was a rubbish heap of dioxins and other toxic substances, all incinerating together, spewing fumes into the air. It was called "Maghtab", after the preexisting village that had become a hell hole. The people of Maghtab suffered from chronic respiratory problems, increased cancer rates, and constant fumes. They couldn't escape because no one would buy their property.
I left Malta in 2003, shortly before Malta joined the European Union. Suddenly astronomical fines were levied against Malta for every day that blight existed. It was closed in 2004, according to a 2010 article in the Times of Malta. The level of dioxins in the air was reduced by 99 percent after the dump was closed. I can't help wondering if I would still have my left breast if I had not lived downwind of that horror.
Now that we know BPA is contributing to our diabetes and obesity epidemics, how long will it take to get it removed from regular use? How hard will manufacturers lobby to keep it in circulation so they can profit? In the meantime, what can you do?
The Environmental Working Group has a list of what to avoid. It includes avoiding #7 plastics, choosing glass bottles over plastic, and not using plastic to cook food in the microwave, among other tips.
As for other untested chemicals, buyer beware. Ladies, your favorite lipstick probably has unsafe levels of lead in it. That's another story...
Elizabeth Danu is a survivor of inflammatory breast cancer , celebrating five years on February 22. She maintains a cancer resource blog at the Liberation of Persephone.
- insulin resistance