Are Plastics Causing Diabetes?

Bisphenol A and type 2 diabetes have no clear connection

(RxWiki News) It has been suggested that bisphenol A - a chemical found in plastics - may be bad for your health. Some studies have found a link between the chemical and diabetes. Now, new research challenges that link.

Researchers found no clear connection between bisphenol A and a risk of type 2 diabetes. This finding is at odds with results from past studies.

"Don't fear getting diabetes from bisphenol A."

Previous studies on animals showed that bisphenol A could play a role in the development of chronic disease, including diabetes. Yet, a team of researchers led by Guang Ning, M.D., Ph.D., from Shanghai Jiao-Tong University School of Medicine, were not able to find a link between increased levels of bisphenol A in the urine and an increased risk of diabetes.

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical found in hard plastic containers like water bottles, baby bottles, and the coating of food cans.

Dr. Ning and colleagues found that people with the highest BPA levels had a higher risk of diabetes than those with the lowest BPA levels. However, people with the second highest levels of BPA out of four groups did not have an increased risk of diabetes. At the same time, the group with the second lowest levels of BPA did have an increased risk.

The researchers could not show that the risk of diabetes increases as the levels of BPA in the urine increase. This finding, according to the researchers, means that they cannot conclude there is a link between BPA and type 2 diabetes.

These results will not end the debate on BPA. The chemical is known as endocrine disruptor, which means that it may change hormone activity in the body. While animal studies have shown that BPA may be associated with certain cancers, heart disease, and brain development problems in children, the effect of BPA on humans is still not entirely clear.

Dr. Ning and colleagues studied 3,423 people over the age of 40 for about one year. They measured levels of BPA in the urine of participants. They also measured fasting plasma glucose concentrations (blood sugar levels) and insulin levels.

More than 1,000 participants had type 2 diabetes.

This study also will not end the debate because of certain limitations in the design of the study. Many of the participants already had diabetes. The researchers also did not take participants' diets into account.

More research on BPA needs to be done in humans in order to see whether or not the chemical is associated to diabetes.

The observational, cross-sectional study by Dr. Ning and colleagues is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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Review Date: 
September 20, 2011