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Eating Fresh Foods May Cut Exposure to BPA

Study: Avoiding Packaged, Canned Foods May Reduce Levels of the Chemical Bisphenol A

What Studies Show continued...

But most studies such as these can only show associations; they can’t prove that the chemicals are directly causing health problems.

Nira Ben-Jonathan, PhD, a professor of cell and cancer biology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio, has studied what happens to cells when they are exposed to BPA in test tubes.

In one study, her team found that BPA exposure protected breast cancer cells from chemotherapy. In another, it made cells ignore a hormone that protects against the development of diabetes.

Even seeing those changes in cells, she said she had reservations about the message of this study.

“Interesting, but not as striking as one would expect,” says Ben-Jonathan, who reviewed the study for WebMD. She said she found it suspicious that even after adhering to such a strict regimen that some chemical traces remained.

“That suggests to me that they’re also getting BPA from nonfood sources,” she says.

And if that’s the case, she wonders, is it practical to advise people to make such big changes if it’s not possible to really avoid the chemical?

“To tell people only to use organic food and they can reduce their BPA levels, I don’t think so,” she says. “It’s so prevalent. ... It’s not just food.”

She said the greatest good could be accomplished if manufacturers made packaging changes.

“We are in an industrial world. We are surrounded by plastics. It’s very difficult to avoid it. I think that the food industry and the chemical industry should really avoid using bisphenol A if they can find an alternative. Not all plastics can do this,” she says.

The Can Manufacturers Institute says they are working on alternatives.

Advice for Consumers

Richard W. Stahlhut, MD, MPH, an environmental health researcher and preventive medicine specialist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in New York, who has studied BPA exposure, says he tries to take “a Zen approach.”

Stahlhut says when he’s at home he tries to avoid plastics unless he needs them. If he can’t avoid plastics, he tries not to worry too much about it.

“You can’t be perfect, but you can be better,” he says.

Stahlhut, who reviewed the study, says it appears to be well done and shows that you can make a big dent in BPA exposure by making straightforward changes to how you cook and eat.

And that those reductions are probably prudent, even though knowledge about BPA is still incomplete and probably will be for decades to come.

“Since it takes 10, 20, 30 years to find out, the best approach is that if you don’t need an exposure, reduce it when you can. And when you can’t, be Zen about it, because we don’t know for sure that it’s bad anyway.”

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