Preppers and anyone else with a pantry full of canned food may want to take note. Research has determined that eating canned food increases exposure to the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), possibly increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems.
The study comes from Jennifer Hartle and other researchers at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and Johns Hopkins University. They published their results June 29th in the journal Environmental Research. Although past research has suggested that eating canned foods can increase the exposure to BPA, this new study provides strong evidence of the link and finds that chemical exposure may depend on the type of canned food.
For their study, the researchers looked at food habits and urine BPA levels of thousands of people across different geographic areas in the United States, socioeconomic backgrounds, and a variety of ages. This is in contrast to previous studies, which had examined BPA in much smaller groups of people.
It turns out that about ten percent of the study participants had canned food within the past twenty-four hours, indicating how common eating canned food is in the country. Once the researchers analyzed all their data, they confirmed the link between eating canned food and having higher BPA levels in the body. The more canned food the participants ate, the higher their urine BPA levels. Not only that, the researchers discovered that different types of canned food increased BPA exposure more than others. Canned soup seemed to have the highest BPA levels, followed by canned pasta, not good news for college students and others that rely on these foods as a daily meal. This was followed by canned fruit and vegetables, which can be important for those without easy access to fresh foods.
The research did not find increased BPA levels in people that drank canned soda. Surprisingly, the researchers also did not find increased BPA levels related to canned fish and other meat. The researchers speculate this could be because of the study relying on data from food diaries which may have combined the data for fish and other meat. Otherwise, the researchers had speculated that the oily fish would increase leaching of BPA from the cans into the food.
As the study authors point out, just one can of mushroom soup can expose someone to more BPA than three cans of peaches. The authors speculate this variation in BPA exposure in different foods may have something to do with the heating of the cans to remove bacteria, with the higher heat needed for certain foods leaching out higher levels of BPA in the canning process.
Previous studies by Hartle had found that the link between BPA and canned foods could put children especially at risk. School meals often use canned foods while attempting to provide nutritious foods to children with simple food preparation. However, these efforts to provide children with fruits and vegetables may not be helping their health if it increases their BPA exposure.
Manufacturers use resins containing BPA to coat the insides of food cans and jar lids, helping to prevent contact between the metal and food and helping to keep the contents fresh. However, the foods in the cans and jars can leach this chemical out of the resins, absorbing it into the food. Once someone eats the food, they are eating the BPA which can then travel throughout their body.
Because of the risks of BPA exposure, regulations have restricted its use in recent years. Items such as baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula can liners are no longer allowed to contain BPA in the United States. Other food and drink manufacturers are voluntarily phasing out the use of BPAs in their food packaging. Although manufacturing is moving away from using BPA, however, there is some evidence the alternative products may not be any safer. The researchers suggest expanding studies to include BPA alternatives, determining their safety before making any drastic manufacturing changes.
The state of California lists BPA as a female reproductive toxicant. This plastic ingredient has a similar shape to hormone molecules, so it can interfere with bodily processes involving hormones. Other studies have suggested that in high doses, BPA can interfere with sex organs, the nervous system, behavior, the heart, and other important systems in the body. There may even be a link between BPA exposure and cancer risk. The hormone disruption from BPA could be of concern especially in growing children who may not be able to clear the chemical from their system as well as adult. However, research so far has not been able to clarify what level of BPA exposure in foods could trigger these health issues.