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Does the Plastic Chemical Bisphenol A Contribute to Type 2 Diabetes? FREE

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The full report is titled “Relationship of Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration to Risk for Prevalent Type 2 Diabetes in Chinese Adults. A Cross-sectional Analysis.” It is in the 20 September 2011 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 155, pages 368-374). The authors are G. Ning, Y. Bi, T. Wang, M. Xu, Y. Xu, Y. Huang, M. Li, X. Li, W. Wang, Y. Chen, Y. Wu, J. Hou, A. Song, Y. Liu, and S. Lai.

Ann Intern Med. 2011;155(6):I-36. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-155-6-201109200-00001
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in plastic containers and many consumer products. That BPA can be found at measurable levels in the blood and urine has led many people to wonder whether it is harmful. Bisphenol A has been shown to have hormone-like effects in animals, but the relevance of these findings to human health is unclear. Studies in humans have come to different conclusions about the contributions of BPA to illness. The contribution of BPA to type 2 diabetes is especially unclear; one of the two largest studies of BPA in humans found that people with higher BPA levels were more likely to have diabetes, but the other study did not.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To assess the association between BPA levels and type 2 diabetes.

Who was studied?

3423 people in Shanghai, China, some of whom already had type 2 diabetes.

How was the study done?

The researchers measured BPA levels in the participants' urine. They also measured blood sugar levels. They used statistics to see whether they could detect an association between higher BPA levels and blood sugar levels that are a feature of type 2 diabetes.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found an association between the highest urinary levels of BPA and diabetes. However, there was no clear association between BPA and diabetes at lower levels.

What were the limitations of the study?

The study did not account for many factors that contribute to type 2 diabetes, such as what and how people eat. Higher BPA levels may simply reflect greater consumption of sugared drinks from plastic bottles, which is already known to be a contributor to diabetes. The levels of BPA in the study were lower than those seen in Western countries, and the study measured BPA and blood sugar levels only at one time point. More research is needed in which BPA is measured in people without diabetes who would then be followed over time to see whether persons with higher BPA levels diabetes develops more often.

What are the implications of the study?

This study found no clear association between BPA levels and type 2 diabetes. It is useful nonetheless because it provides some sense of the association between BPA and disease. More research is needed to conclude with certainty whether exposure to BPA from plastics and other products is safe or unsafe in humans.





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