How to Avoid the Obesity-Related Plastic Chemical BPA

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How to Avoid BPA

The purported link between obesity and hormone-disrupting plastics chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) was initially based in part on observations that the rise in chemical exposure seemed to coincide with the rise of the obesity epidemic, but that may only be a coincidence. Many other changes over the last half century, like an increase in fast-food consumption and watching TV, would seem to be simpler explanations. But why are our pets getting fatter, too? Fido isn’t eating more fries or drinking more soda. Of course, the more we watch Seinfeld reruns, the less we may walk the dog, but what about our cats? They’re also getting fatter. Are we giving both them and our kids a few too many treats? That would seem to be an easier explanation than some pervasive obesity-causing chemical in the environment building up in the pet and person food chains.

How then do we explain the results of a study of more than 20,000 animals from 24 populations, showing they are all getting fatter? The odds that this could happen just by chance is about 1 in 10 million. The study’s “findings reveal that large and sustained population increases in body weight” are occurring across the board, even in those without access to vending machines or getting less physical education in schools. Perhaps some environmental pollutant is involved. I discuss this in my video How to Avoid the Obesity-Related Plastic Chemical BPA.

We’re exposed to a whole cocktail of new chemicals besides BPA, but the reason researchers have zeroed in on it is because of experiments showing that BPA can accelerate the production of new fat cells, at least in a petri dish. This was at more than a thousand times the concentration found in most people’s bloodstream, though. We didn’t know if the same thing happened at typical levels…until now. Most people have between 1 and 20 nanomoles of BPA in their blood, but even 1 nanomole may significantly boost human fat cell production. So, even low levels may be a problem, but that’s in a petri dish. What about in people?

Why not just measure the body weights of a population exposed to the chemical compared to a population not exposed to the chemical? There is virtually no unexposed population: BPA is everywhere. In that case, how about those with higher levels compared to those with lower levels? This is what researchers at New York University did, and the amount of BPA flowing through the bodies of children and adolescents “was significantly associated with obesity.” However, since it was a cross-sectional study, a snapshot in time, we don’t know which came first. Maybe instead of the high BPA levels leading to obesity, the obesity led to high BPA levels, since the chemical is stored in fat. Or, perhaps BPA is a marker for the same kinds of processed foods that can make you fat. What we need are prospective studies that measure exposure and then follow people over time. We never had anything like that…until now! And indeed, researchers found that higher levels of BPA and some other plastics chemicals were significantly associated with faster weight gain over the subsequent decade. So, how can we stay away from the stuff?

Though we inhale some from dust and get some through our skin touching BPA-laden receipts, 90 percent of exposure is from our diet. How can we tell? When we have people fast and drink water only out of glass bottles for a few days, their BPA levels drop as much as tenfold.

Fasting isn’t very sustainable, though.

What happens with a three-day fresh foods intervention, where families switch away from canned and packaged foods for a few days? A significant drop in BPA exposure. If we do the experiment the other way, adding a serving of canned soup to people’s daily diet, we see a thousand percent rise in BPA levels in their urine compared to a serving of soup prepared with fresh ingredients. That study used a ready-to-serve canned soup, which, in the largest survey of North American canned foods, was found to have about 85 percent less BPA than condensed soups, but the worst was canned tuna.


I previously touched upon bisphenol A in BPA Plastic and Male Sexual Dysfunction. Some companies make canned foods without BPA, for example, Eden Foods. (See Do Eden Beans Have Too Much Iodine? for more information.) You can also buy aseptic packaged beans or boil your own. Personally, I like pressure-cooking them.

For more on BPA, see:

Phthalates are another concerning class of plastics chemicals. I covered those in Avoiding Adult Exposure to Phthalates and What Diet Best Lowers Phthalate Exposure?.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


50 responses to “How to Avoid BPA

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  1. Well, if someone knows of bpa-free canned tomatoes, please let let us know. Tomatoes and beans are staple item, but the competitively priced items are canned using bpa or similar linings. Between the oxalates, the lead/cadmium/mercury, microplastics, bpa, etc. a fruitarian diet is starting to look good.

    1. Tomatoes and beans are staple item, but the competitively priced items are canned using bpa or similar linings.
      ——————————————–
      Barb, can’t recall the brand names at the moment but I do recall finding canned foods without the white plastic linings (although some will cheat and put the white plastic on the can’s lids.) But I’ve gone a step beyond when possible and buy food in glass when possible.

      True, it is more costly. However, by tailoring one’s nutrition to one’s budget, you can afford glass by doing away with some foods that you’ve grown up eating but can do without… nutritionally.

      That is, eating a high anti-oxidant food safely packaged in place of the one you are used to but don’t feel you are justified spending the extra coin to get it in glass.

      1. Thanks Lonie, and thanks also to Genesis for your comments. We all differ in what stores and food brands we have access to, but I am sure that these comments are helpful in some way to fellow travellers negotiating the mine field of our food supply so to speak.

        I emptied my cupboards (took all of 30 seconds) to see what hazards were lurking there. The 3 cans of organic beans did not bear a bpa free label. Disappointing… I won’t buy those again even though they were low sodium too. Likewise, the tomato paste does not qualify, but to my surprise Aylmer canned tomatoes are in bpa free cans. Great.

        1. The 3 cans of organic beans did not bear a bpa free label. Disappointing… I won’t buy those again even though they were low sodium too.
          ———————————————————————–
          Barb (or anyone who knows for sure)

          doesn’t the BPA come from the can lining? So, if your cans are bare metal inside instead of the white plastic coating, doesn’t that suggest being BPA free?

          1. Why are you still buying beans in cans when you can buy beans plain and soak them overnight and cook them the next day? Oh, wait. Because you don’t have the time?

            1. Oh, wait. Because you don’t have the time?
              ———————————————————–
              Heh, Robert, Yes I do have the time… I just choose to utilize it differently. ‘-)

              Besides, I’ve recently discovered a canned fat free refried beans product that has become my main source of beans in my diet.

              I wouldn’t know how to get that result so I just trust the process.

              1. It’s very easy to produce excellent cooked beans from dry in an instant pot. Sort and wash the beans, hit one button, walk away and come back at your convenience. Unfortunately, legumes are sprayed with roundup as a desiccant before harvest.

                1. There are some great YouTube videos of produce being soaked in Kangen water for pesticide removal. I’m sure similar results could be gained by soaking dry beans.

            2. Robert- go ahead and skip the soaking too. It’s a waste of effort. It only takes another 10 or 15 minutes to cook dried beans and the texture comes out the same.

              1. skip the soaking too. It’s a waste of effort.
                ———————————————————-
                Ryan, years ago I read that it is important to soak (pinto) beans in order for them to release some enzyme or another that causes them to produce gas in the person. Of course you throw that water away and add new water for cooking.

                Can’t verify if this is true… maybe a professional pinto bean eater/cooker can chime in.

            3. Hey Robert, just FYI, 15 – 20% of the population suffer from IBS, which means we may only consume (well rinsed) canned beans & lentils, not fresh. This is because the oligosaccherides & fructans present in the pulses dissolve in the liquid.

            4. Get an Instant Pot. It’s worth the money. Put dried beans in and 40 minutes later, they’re done! The savings will pay for the Instant Pot in no time. I also make my steel cut oats in it… takes 5 minutes of cooking. Add a little time, in the beginning, to get the water boiling inside. I use my Instant Pot all the time!

          2. They add the lining to the cans to avoid cadmium and other metals leaching into the food?

            Need to see the research on cadmium levels which for most people are high?

            At any rate acidic tomatoes and cans DO NOT go together. Got to laugh at all the TV chefs happily dumping canned tomatoes into their stuff…

            I mostly use a glass canned salsa and avoid spaghetti sauce….which even though it is organic…has sugar. They also sell frozen corn and peas which are extra sweet…not added…due to the masses who are conditioned to LOVE SUGAR.

            Choose your poison…sugar…BPA….cadmium…you just GOTTA have at least one of them???

            1. At any rate acidic tomatoes and cans DO NOT go together.
              ————————————————————————————-
              That was always my thinking for the white plastic lining in cans with acidic food. But my thinking it is because the acidic canned foods are more likely to swell and burst if not used withing the sell by date. (I have experience with this as I have bought restaurant-sized gallon cans of tomatoes without the plastic lining that have swelled and burst from prolonged storage.)

        2. I emptied my cupboards
          ———————————-
          Barb, you’ve no idea what a nice feeling seeing the word “cupboards” provided me. It’s almost as good as reflecting on the term “ice box” which I grew up hearing when referencing the “fridge” as it became known.

          “Cupboards” just reminds me of how colonial New England is related to Americanism, akin to what Jerusalem is to western religion.

          (discussion with self: WTF?… this nostalgia is just not you. SLAP!!! Now… snap out if it.)

        3. Barb, On re-viewing the earlier NF video on BPA, in the comments section of that video, there is a link to a person’s website that explains a lot of info on plastics regarding food containers. According to his research, none of these plastic food containers nor liners are safe:

          https://myplasticfreelife.com/2011/04/bpa-free-does-not-mean-safe-most-plastics-leach-hormone-disrupting-chemicals/

          However, the article was written in 2011, so things may have changed by now.

    2. my local Whole Foods Market carries a brand of organic tomatoes that come in a glass jar.
      the brand name is JOVIAL. they offer jarred whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and crushed tomatos.

      Whole Foods will give you a discount if you get a case at a time.

    3. Hi Barb, I think Dr G mentioned Pomi brand of tomatoes in the Tetra Pak. That’s all I use. It is available in all my local stores and periodically on sale. It is BPA Free, no added salt or other funky stuff. Says just tomatoes. Comes from Italy. Also available as organic or not. It’s great. ( hope no one talks me out of it ). Be well!

    4. Barb, Eden Foods beans are BPA free, as are Muir Glen tomato products.
      Ditto Amy’s organic soups, although not many are low in sodium.

      For Pets, I feed my Maine Coon Organix brand. None of the cans state BPA free, but I see no sign of it.

  2. This blog should have been saved for Halloween… ’cause it is scary! Decades ago I threw out my teflon coated cooking utensils and went to ceramics (hope those are somewhat safe.)

    I’ve also got many cans of Rotel tomato/pepper salsa-like stuff that is coated in white, so it sits in my pantry waiting until I read a way to re-purpose it… like killing slugs in a garden for instance (this is not a true thing so don’t take it as such.)

    That’s what I get for buying something in bulk without knowing what’s inside. On the other hand, I found the same product in glass and bought a case of the stuff… just hoping the inside of the large mouth jar lids don’t also have something similar.

  3. We live in Spain half the year where lentils and chickpeas are sold in bottles. I wonder whether these contain BPA.

  4. Barb, I use POMI brand of tomatoes in the Tetra Pak. I believe Dr. G. mentioned them . Pomi is in all my stores that I shop at which includes Publix, Luckys, Earthfare, Fresh Market. Hope this helps. It has no added salt or other additives. The label says “just tomatoes”. It comes organic and non- organic. Comes from Italy. Also on sale periodically. Be well!

    1. Thanks Ruthi, I have not seen tetra packs where I live, but I will go on an investigative shopping trip in the next day or 2. We do have strained tomatoes in glass here though which is ok for some things.

      A Note to Rob Hill, yes, Dr Greger has a video on BPS and BPF. ( It could be what Aylmer is using ? I will have to call and check)

  5. There was a study (which I don’t have a copy of) that showed overweight people who had pets had overweight pets. Perhaps it has more to do with behaviors than BPA.

    1. Speaking of overweight, I’ve been noticing that young people seem to have noticeable belly fat. Even teens that aren’t overweight. Is that caused by these chemicals also?
      Anyone seem any studies to explain that?

      1. I’ve been noticing that young people seem to have noticeable belly fat.
        ———————————————————————
        I’ve read in the past that smoking causes this. Since learning that I’ve noticed that young smokers do indeed have an “innertube” around their waist.

  6. What I found in the past 20 years of a holistic practice and 5 years of plant based wholefood practice, is people who measure their weight, waist …. but they do not measure their body burdens of toxins…. we call Obesogen.
    Weight loss=toxin release=redistribution of toxins=sixkness in the long run….

  7. My mouth is full of bpa in my white fillings. So I can not get away from it! All my future fillllings will be with a bio dentist. They are difficult to find I know. Apparently white fillings can be done bpa free including the glue they use for the filling, however, most dentists do not do this.

  8. I use a lot of canned organic vegetables and soups,
    and most Canadian brands of Organics are also BPA Free.
    If you have Ca brands available.

  9. Gordon, but that isn’t true.. I am in Canada, and some organic brands (some come from the usa) are in bpa free cans, but many are not. I look for the bpa free symbol, or an actual statement to that effect on the can. And with some companies (used to be with Eden) that even if their beans were bpa free, their tomato products were not.

    I will write down people’s brand suggestions from today’s blog with me, and see what I can find locally this week. Some brands are pricier than others, but usually everything comes on sale once in a while.

  10. According to several websites, although BPA-free and BPS-free, Eden is now using polyester lining in their cans. Polyester has been linked with increased risks of “Cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, respiratory toxicity”. Sound familiar?!! I am hoping the glass jars and tetrapaks are safer, but I don’t know what is in the lids of the glass jars, and I don’t really know what the tetrapaks are lined with. I don’t assume that “BPA-free” means anything, since the alternatives seem equally bad. Of course, make your own beans and avoid processed foods when possible… Has anyone seen information relating to the lids on glass jars or the linings for tetrapaks?? Very frustrating.

  11. Unless Dr. Greger is using a bidet, then he’s getting his daily dose of BPA as well.

    Cash receipts and glossy paper laden with BPA are recycled into toilet paper.

    [Environ. Sci. Technol. 2011, 45, 9372–9379]

    1. Cash receipts and glossy paper laden with BPA are recycled into toilet paper.
      —————————————————————————————————
      Oh Crap!

      Guess I’ll have to start growing organic corn so I’ll have chemical free corn cobs to wipe with.

  12. What about plastic containers that things like precut greens are sold in? Greens are very expensive to buy individually and go bad quickly.

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