Is BPA really all that bad?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at Tuesday, March 30, 2010
In one of my previous posts, the Extreme Male Theory of Autism, I touched on the possible link between Autism and various chemicals, specifically BPA (bisphenol A). Now you can’t walk into a store and not see a TON of items listed as BPA-free, especially baby items. So this got me thinking, is BPA really all that bad? Or are we just making a huge deal out of a small amount of research that, when you get down to the nitty gritty, doesn’t really apply to human exposure to BPA. I found a great article from November 2009 posted in the National Research Center for Women & Families that summarizes a lot of scientific findings nicely.

So what is BPA? Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound used to make plastic items such as baby bottles, food storage containers, water bottles, and coats beverage/food containers. BPA is also a known endocrine disruptor (just means it can disrupt the body’s natural hormone functions). One problem with BPA is that more leeches out into our food/beverages as we heat the plastic. Consequently, babies and infants tend to be on of the highest exposure groups. But the skeptical scientist in me stops here and realizes that water, if you have too much, can be bad for you too. So are we causing unnecessary concern over small amounts of BPA? Well, not really.

There have been numerous scientific reports and I will break them down as succinctly as possible. Here are some listings of what BPA has been shown to affect in both animal and human studies:

BPA affects on fetuses/infants/kids:
- the prostate gland, brain, and behavior
- early puberty in girls, interferes with estrogen

BPA and women:
-linked to miscarriages
-insulin resistance (a risk factor for Type II diabetes)
-increased formation and growth of fat cells (which can lead to obesity)

BPA and men:
-(exposure to BPA via work conditions) greater erectile dysfunction, ejaculation and diminished sex drive

BPA and animal studies:
-in rats, a significant increase in precancerous lesions in the mammary glands and prostate
-early onset of puberty in rats receiving doses comparable to what humans would be exposed to
-hyperthyroidism in (especially female) cats (remember the cans are coated with BPA)
-in mice and rats there was an increase in hyperactivity and brain activity
-in nonhuman primates BPA was linked to cognitive issues that could possible contribute to deficits in
learning and memory

BPA in cell lines:
-cancer cells exposed to BPA showed a decreased response to chemotherapy

As a side note, BPA was approved by the FDA for use. However, as the article states,
“according to a publication of the American Chemical Society, the national professional association for chemists, 153 government-funded BPA experiments on lab animals and tissues found adverse effects while only 14 did not”.
This prompted more studies looking at BPA exposure and its effects on humans. A subsequent study (Lang et al., 2008), found that heart disease and diabetes were linked to higher levels of BPA in humans.

Canada, and most (if not all) of Europe has already banned BPA. In the U.S. it was recently announced that there will be increased funding to further study the effects of BPA. And as we can all attest to, BPA has already been removed from many, many products.

So I guess the moral of the story is this…BPA clearly has some pretty toxic effects. What is most alarming is that these deleterious effects occur in the range of our exposure. In our family, we buy as many BPA-free products as possible, as long as it is financially sound and reasonable.

What are your thoughts?

Article Cited and Referenced:
Diana Zuckerman, PhD, Paul Brown, BS, and Laura Walls, BA. Are Bisphenol A (BPA) Plastic Products Safe for Infants and Children? National Research Center for Women & Families, November 2009.

Lang I.A., Galloway T.S., Scarlett A. et al. (2008). Association of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration With Medical Disorders and Laboratory Abnormalities in Adults. Journal of American Medical Association 300(11),1303-1310.

Hooray for Boobs Part 2

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Well we are back on the topic of boobs...well, more specifically, breastfeeding.  You may recall from a previous post, "Hooray for Boobs", I laid out some very important contributions breastfeeding has on IQ.  In addition, in "If You're a Picky Eater and Ya Know It, Clap Your Hands", I also talked about how genes play a role on the like or dislike of certain foods by kids. Well gosh darn, I came across an article (2007) that studied a mother's diet while breastfeeding and how it may contribute to the foods her kiddo is willing to try.  According to researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, eating certain foods while breastfeeding will likely result in your kid enjoying those same foods.  I think we all know that once a baby is moved onto solid foods, repeated exposure to foods will increase the chance that the baby will accept it, and we all know that greater consumption of fruits and vegetables packs many, many health benefits.  This current study assessed 45 infants (20 of whom were breastfed) who had only been exposed to cereal.  One group received green beans for 8 consecutive days while the other group received green beans and peaches on alternating days.  All infants were assessed on their acceptance of green beans and peaches before and after the study.  Results suggests that, unlike formula fed (which is not a knock against those who formula feed), babies accepted peaches more if their mothers ate peaches and breastfed.  This was not found with green beans.  And why you ask?  Good question!  The researchers found that breastfeeding mothers consumed green beans way less than peaches, and way less than the recommend amounts for green vegetables.  Therefore, the results indicate that if the mothers would have consumed more green beans and/or green vegetables, the breastfed infants would have also accepted green beans more readily.

I do have one issue with a finding in this study.  The lead scientist states "Babies are born with a dislike for bitter tastes"...apparently they need to read my blog!  Studies indicate that a babies like or dislike for bitter tastes is GENETIC!  If Mom and Dad both have the gene that encoded for bitter taste YO BABY NO LIKEY BROCCOLI.  ( Wow I am so don't even want to know how long I laughed at that...again).  But if Mom and Dad or just Mom/Dad don't have the gene that encodes for the bitter taste, an infant will be more likely to accept green or bitter foods.  However, as I stated in the "Picky Eater" blog, environment does play a role too.  If you are picky because you THINK you don't like a certain food, or whoever prepared it for you didn't need to be in the kitchen, your kids can/will model your behavior.

Another interesting point of this study is that the researchers also found that the facial expressions made by babies did not always parallel with their acceptance of the food.  They concluded that infants have an innate mechanism for displaying facial expressions for certain foods, which many not indicate their actual like or dislike of the food.

So the take-home message is that boobs rock!  If you breastfeed, you have the ability to influence what foods your baby will like.  How cool is that?!  Therefore, breastfeeding mamas should make sure to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, not only for their babies benefit, but for themselves as well.

I'm Crawling on Sunshine...

Thursday, February 4, 2010 at Thursday, February 04, 2010
Er, what? Now before you think I have lost my marbles and forgot that the song is actually "I'm walking on sunshine", rest assured I have not. And you are welcome for now having that song stuck in your head :)

My in-laws just came for a visit and we were discussing the fact that Conner is crawling and cruising his little tushie off. However, he is not walking yet. Now I know he just turned 1, but I am sure every parent is excited around the 1st birthday because that is when you start expecting the little wabbly legs to walk. Or so I am told. In our discussion, my in-laws (Pam and Rich) mentioned that there is a link between intelligence and prolonged crawling. The longer a baby crawls is apparently linked to their intelligence. WHAT? So I had to do some investigating.

I tried to find a lot of information about this topic, but surprisingly found little. It seems that the main person behind this theory is Glenn Doman, a childhood educator that specializes in right-brain training (whatever that means). He is also the author of How To Teach Your Baby To Be Physically Superb. Here is a great quote from the article summarizing what Doman contends:

"...crawling forwards is an essential skill to master. Doman claims that crawling stimulates the brain to develop convergence of vision - and that as a result, people who skip this phase as babies may find it extremely difficult to learn to read and write as children. In addition, children who missed out on crawling may suffer from speech problems, he says - because the same part of the brain controls both functions"

Now I will admit that I have not read his book. I have noticed that he gets a lot of good reviews and has written a number of books. So I can't really critique his book and I am sure it has plenty of scientific research to back up his assertions. But I do take some issue with the claim that learning to read/write and speech are controlled by the same part of the brain. I think that is way way oversimplified. Any of my fellow neuroscientists feel free to chime in if I am wrong.

I have seen babies that crawl "normal", crawl on their butts, or skip crawling all together. And lets not forget that there are some babies that walk by 9 months, and some by 18 months. So to any parent or grandparent out there...did you notice any differences in reading and writing abilities and the length of crawling/onset of walking? I will address this issue more once I have read the book, but for now I thought it would be cool to get some anecdotal input.

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