Lead investigator Dr. Leonardo Trasande of the New York University School of Medicine said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned BPA -- a synthetic chemical found in plastics and containers -- from sippy cups and baby bottles, but it is still used in products such as aluminum cans containing soda.
"This is the first association of an environmental chemical in childhood obesity in a large, nationally representative sample," Trasande said in a statement. "Our findings further demonstrate the need for a broader paradigm in the way we think about the obesity epidemic. Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity certainly contribute to increased fat mass, but the story clearly doesn't end there."
The study of nearly 3,000 children and adolescents, ages 6-19, randomly selected for measurement of urinary BPA concentration in a 2003-2008 medical survey.
After controlling for race/ethnicity, age, caregiver education, poverty to income ratio, sex, serum cotinine -- tobacco by-product -- level, caloric intake, television watching and urinary creatinine level, the researchers found children with the highest levels of urinary BPA had 2.6 times higher odds of being obese than those with the lowest measures of urinary BPA.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found among the participants with the highest levels, 22.3 percent were obese compared with 10.3 percent of the participants with the lowest levels.