By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Is plastic fattening?

There may be a link at least to BPA, short for bisphenol A, a chemical found in plastic bottles, metal can linings and on paper receipts.

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“It is in everything. We’re not going to get away from it,” says nutritionist Heather Mangieri.

It has a similar chemical structure to the hormone estrogen. Almost all Americans older than six have detectable levels in their blood.

“Ninety-nine percent of us have exposure to it,” she says.

A study from New York University looked at surveys of nearly 3,000 kids, ages six to 19, done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among Caucasian children, more than 22 percent of those with the highest BPA levels in their urine were obese compared to only 10 percent of the ones with the lowest levels.

Similar trends were seen among Black and Hispanic kids, but the analysis shows this may just be due to chance.

While interesting, this kind of study cannot prove cause and effect. It could be obese children store more BPA in fat tissue or they consume more food, increasing their exposure.

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“We can’t conclude that BPA causes childhood obesity,” Mangieri stresses.

Definitive causes are hard to pin down.

“It would be so easy if we could just say, ‘This causes obesity and therefore, let’s eliminate this.’ It’s just not like that, there’s so many factors,” she continues.

Last year, a study also based on CDC figures showed a similar pattern in adults.

“The best thing that we can do is try to limit our exposure,” says Mangieri. “Look on the bottom of containers. If it contains the numbers seven or three, it likely has BPA.”

The Food and Drug Administration banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups in July.

You can reduce your exposure by reheating food in non-plastic dishes and by going with fewer cans and more frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Dr. Maria Simbra