New study confirms the dangers of BPA exposure for infants: It reduces gut biodiversity, setting the child up for chronic inflammation and disease

Recent research in rabbits reveals that exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) sets up an infant for susceptibility to chronic disease influenced by inflammation. The study, published in mSystems, used pregnant rabbits that received 200 µg of BPA/kg of body weight from gestation day 15 through postnatal day seven. Fetal exposure to BPA did not significantly influence litter size, survival, birth weight, or sex ratio. However, BPA exposure triggered inflammatory response at various stages of severity in the rabbit offspring. BPA-treated animals have significantly more lesions in their colons and hepatic lobules (small lobes in the liver) than those in the control group.

The research likewise concluded that BPA, an environmental endocrine disruptor, is transferred to the offspring through the placenta, where it accumulates in the maturing fetal gut and liver, and alters the offspring’s gut bacterial profiles. Similarly, BPA is mainly metabolized in human liver, and exposure to it and other environmental toxins could be associated with colon cancer and hepatitis. (Related: High colon cancer risk caused by Western junk food can be reversed with healthy, high-fiber diets, study proves.)

BPA found in food storage items

BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics such as water bottles and epoxy resins which are used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines. Some research has shown that BPA can seep through food and beverages through these containers, with potential health concerns on the brain and other organs of fetuses, infants and children.

Cutting back on canned food and plastic containers is one of the best ways to reduce exposure to BPA and its health risks. Look for products labeled as BPA-free, and avoid microwaving plastic containers to avoid seeping into food. Using alternative containers such as glass, porcelain, or stainless steel is another way to reduce exposure to the harmful chemical.

A primer on BPA and its health effects

BPA is an industrial chemical used extensively to manufacture commonly used plastics and epoxy resin liners for food and beverage cans. One of the harmful effects of perinatal BPA exposure is reduced gut bacterial diversity. Gut bacterial diversity is a collection of friendly bacteria living within our intestines. It is an essential factor in maintaining a healthy heart, strong immunity, and generally avoiding chronic diseases. It has anti-inflammatory power, ensures stable and resilient gut function, and protects against food-borne and antibiotic-resistant infections. Gut bacterial diversity also reduces food cravings and helps regulate appetite.

Exposure to high levels of BPA also reduces gut permeability — the intestinal barrier prevents loss of water and electrolytes and entry of microorganisms into the body; gut permeability allows the absorption of nutrients in the diet. BPA exposure also decreases microbial metabolic molecules (commonly known as metabolites) such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) or volatile fatty acids (VFAs). Metabolites are produced by the gut bacteria and are necessary for metabolism and overall health of the colon.

Inflammation is a response of the immune system to infection caused by invading pathogens inside the body. Perinatal BPA exposure affecting the overall health of the gut is an early biomarker of inflammation-promoted chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, neurological diseases, obesity, and diabetes, during the early stages of life.

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