As I’m sure many of you are well aware, BPA (bisphenol A) is a known endocrine disrupter, altering hormone-related activity even at low levels of exposure. Studies have linked BPA toxicity to adverse effects on reproduction, the nervous system and behavioral development (including aggressiveness and hyperactivity). A recent human study has even shown that BPA is linked with increased autism risk. Children, especially very young children and babies, have a relatively higher exposure level compared with adults and may be most at risk from adverse effects.
BPA is found in food and drink packaging such as food cans, milk containers, and bottle tops, and in store receipts, water pipes, dental sealants, plastic food storage containers, baby bottles, plastic wrap, some newspaper ink and carbonless copy paper.
What should we do?
First of all—don’t panic! Dr. Fitzgerald has covered keeping things in perspective in the past!
Adverse effects from toxins arise when the amount of exposure is greater than our bodies’ capacity to detoxify and eliminate them. So it follows that we can address the issue of BPA exposure and toxicity from two angles: reducing or exposure to BPA, and supporting our bodies’ ability to detoxify and eliminate BPA.
- Reducing our exposure…
It pays to find BPA-free food containers: In 2011, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health published a study showing 10 times higher levels of BPA (in blood) in individuals eating just one serving of canned soup per day for five days, compared with those eating fresh soup. Here’s what to do instead:
- Limit consumption of canned foods, especially if pregnant
- Buy BPA-free cans, or alternatives in glass jars
- Use glass storage containers or glass/stainless steel lunch and snack containers
- Buy baby formula in plastic, glass, or other non-metal containers. Choose powdered formula where possible because the packaging will have less BPA
- If you have to use plastic, choose containers that are labeled BPA-free or have the recycling symbol with the numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5 on the bottom, which are BPA-free
- Do not microwave food in plastic containers
- Do not place plastic containers in the dishwasher
- Do not give a child a receipt to hold or play with; wash hands after handling receipts
The good news is that many manufacturers have been steadily removing BPA from their products due to consumer concerns. Here is a list of some of the BPA-free food suppliers and packers:
- Amy’s Organic
- Crown Prince: See a list of their BPA-free products here
- Eden Organic
- Farmer’s Market
- Hain Celestial (includes Health Valley, Earth’s Best, and Westbrae Natural): Certain products (such as their infant formula) are BPA-free; check with each of their brands before you buy
- Jovial Organics
- Muir Glen: Products with an expiration date of 2014 and on do not contain BPA
- Namaste Water
- Nature Factor: BPA-free, except for their canned mushrooms
- Native Forest: BPA-free, except for their canned mushrooms
- Ocean Brands: BPA-free except for their shrimp and clams
- Oregon’s Choice: BPA-free tuna only
- Sprouts Farmers Market Brand
- Trader Joe’s: only some products are BPA-free, including all plastic bottles/containers and most canned goods. They state that while their glass jar lids DO have BPA, there is an additional coating to prevent that BPA coming into contact with the food. They have a full list here: http://www.traderjoes.com/faqs/product-information
- Vital Choice: BPA-free salmon, sardines and mackarel
- Wild Planet: BPA-free, except for their salmon
- Supporting BPA detoxification and elimination
The recent human study connecting BPA and autism found that the connection occurred in children whose detoxification of BPA is compromised.
When we ingest BPA, it is ‘processed’ in the gut and the liver through a detoxification process called glucuronidation. This involves specific enzymes which attach a glucuronide molecule to BPA. Once this has happened, BPA no longer has the same hormone-disrupting effects and can be excreted back into our digestive tract for elimination. Fiber is also important at this stage, to minimize the de-glucuronidation of BPA and its reabsorption back into our bloodstream.
Well, it turns out that food plays a role in the effectiveness of our glucuronidation mechanisms. For example:
- Foods/nutrients that enhance glucuronidation enzyme activity in underactive states: cruciferous vegetables, resveratrol, citrus, rooibos tea, rosemary, turmeric
- Foods that provide D-glucaric acid (the glucuronidation substrate): found in high concentrations in mung beans and adzuki beans, as well as oranges, spinach, apples, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, grapefruit, grapes, peaches, plums, lemons, and apricots.
- Foods that may reduce beta-glucuronidase activity that separates BPA from its glucuronide conjugate in the gut: strawberries, blackcurrant
- Foods that reduce enteroheaptic recirculation of BPA (i.e. its reabsorption from the gut before it has a chance to be eliminated): high fiber diet
Check out these recipe ideas for supporting glucuronidation!
Update 6/3/15: The EWG today released their first ever review of BPA in canned products and have produced this excellent list of BPA-free and BPA-containing brands. You can find it here.
- Peter Stein, Margaret D. Schluter, Robert A. Steer, Lining Guo, Xue Ming. Bisphenol A Exposure in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism Research, 2015
Hodges R & Minich DM. 2015 (submitted). Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods & Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application
World Health Organization. 2011. Toxicological and health aspects of bisphenol A. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/44624/1/97892141564274_eng.pdf?ua=1