First-time finding: Risk of BPA on intestinal health found amid rising bowel disease cases

636668945017259824packaging prepared foods.jpg

11 Jul 2018 --- Dietary exposure to BPA – found in polycarbonate plastics often used in making containers to store food and beverages – can worsen the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), a study published in Experimental Biology and Medicine has found. IBD can be further exacerbated by the hormone estrogen, and BPA is a known synthetic estrogen.

“This is the first study to show that bisphenol A (BPA) can negatively impact gut microbial amino acid metabolism in a way that has been associated with irritable bowel disease,” says Jennifer DeLuca, First Author of the study.

BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins. The chemical is found in polycarbonate plastics often used in making containers to store food and beverages, such as water bottles. It is also found in epoxy resins used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines. In addition, some dental sealants and composites contain BPA.

The focus on BPA was landed on due to its hormonal composition and, amid increasing IBD cases in industrialized countries, Allred explains, the researched was warranted. Furthermore, “BPA has been previously shown to alter gut microbes similarly to the way the gut microbiota is altered in IBD patients,” adds Allred.

The researchers note that previous research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers made with it and may have possible health effects on the behavior, the brain and prostate glands of fetuses, infants and children.

Influence on IBD
This study sought to detect the impact of BPA on irritable bowel disease (IBD), which is a complex collection of conditions that include ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. 

“WhilClick to Enlargee the causes of IBD have not yet been determined, environmental exposures such as diet, smoking, infections, altered gut microbiome and toxins or pollutants are risk-factors for development and relapse,” says Dr. Kimberly Allred, Professor at the Nutrition and Food Department and study author. “In this study, we wanted to focus on what effect BPA may have on IBD.”

The researchers investigated the ability of BPA to exacerbate colonic inflammation and alter microbiota metabolites derived from aromatic amino acids in an acute dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis model in mice.

“We assessed body weight and fecal consistency in addition to inflammation, injury and nodularity of the colon,” he explains. “We also analyzed changes in microbiota metabolite levels derived from aromatic amino acids reflecting changes in the gut microbiome.”

Essentially, exposure to BPA also increased the levels of several compounds that drive inflammation in the colon, Allred says.

“These types of studies are important to provide initial evidence that we need to better understand how things in the environment influence our risk of getting or worsening symptoms of diseases like IBD and how we can reduce that risk,” Allred concludes.

BPA: What’s the risk?
BPA is a synthetic hormone – estrogen – and high doses of the chemical have been linked to fertility problems such as male impotence. However, some reports do say that BPA in low doses is not harmful to humans.

Although this is the first study to associate BPA and the gut microbe in a way that is associated with IBD, BPA has had bad press for some time. For example, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned BPA in baby bottles in 2012 and prohibited it in infant formula packaging in 2013 while the EU also implemented a ban on BPA use in baby bottles. The EU further banned the use of BPA in thermal paper (receipts) in 2016. The restriction concerns thermal paper containing BPA in a concentration equal to or above 0.02 percent by weight. 

However, earlier this year a study which linked low dose exposure from BPA with a threefold increase in combined benign breast tumors and breast cancer in lab rats was released. The two-year study, a research collaboration called CLARITY-BPA, was coordinated by the interagency National Toxicology Program (NTP), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and the FDA with a goal of studying the range of potential health effects from BPA exposure. In addition to the links to breast cancer, the researchers also found significant effects on the heart and reproductive system. 

However, despite these findings, the FDA still issued a statement asserting that the study showed “minimal” health hazards. In reaction, the Environmental Working Group said, “This has been the FDA’s posture for more than a decade. Defending the safety of BPA exposures while independent scientists report BPA is toxic to the brain, thyroid and reproductive systems.”

A further issue comes to the fore when the possible replacement for BPA comes under discussion as the potential replacement chemical, named bisphenol (BPS), has been criticised as being just as harmful as its predecessor. 

A European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) spokesperson tells NutritionInsight on the topic: “In 2016 EFSA has received a new mandate to re-evaluate the safety of BPA: The first part of the mandate, i.e. to pre-define the assessment strategy, was finalized in December last year. At the moment EFSA is engaging in a new evaluation of all the new scientific evidence available since January 2013  in order to establish a full TDI for the substance and to resolve the uncertainties about possible low dose effects of BPA identified in the EFSA opinion published in 2015.”

Despite discrepancies on the role of BPA in human health, guidelines for the use of the chemical in packaging goods have remained stable. However, a range of brands have released BPA-free packaging which does help to ease the qualms of consumers confused by regulatory and scientific clashes.

By Laxmi Haigh

This feature is provided by NutritionInsight's sister website, PackagingInsights.

To contact our editorial team please email us at

Related Articles

Health & Nutrition News

On your feet: Gelita’s collagen peptide promotes the healing of tendons, study finds

21 Feb 2019 --- A specific bioactive collagen peptide may reduce pain and functional limitations in people suffering from Achilles tendon injury when combined with a rehabilitation program. This is according to a new study from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), published in Nutrients. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study used Tendoforte, Gelita’s recent addition to its Bioactive Collagen Peptides portfolio. As consumers continue to engage in a higher number of sporting activities, as well as more intense regimes, nutritional strategies to strengthen connective tissue are needed, notes Gelita.

Health & Nutrition News

“Far-reaching impact”: Plasma Nutrition’s io technology boosts whey's bioavailability, study confirms

20 Feb 2019 --- Plasma Nutrition’s Ingredient Optimized technology significantly improves the bioavailability of whey protein, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolic Insights. The findings note that the US start-up’s ioWhey protein improves the absorption of leucine, as well as that of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) and essential amino acids (EAAs) in general. The study is the first publication on ioWhey protein and signals a “major breakthrough” for the start-up as it seeks “to pave the way in the advancement of nutrition science.”

Health & Nutrition News

Energy boost: Are adaptogens a better alternative to caffeine? Experts weigh in

20 Feb 2019 --- A daily cup of coffee is not just a habit for the approximately 2.25 billion people around the globe that drink it every day, but rather a beverage that boosts energy and increases alertness with the added bonus of a delicious taste. Despite perceived benefits, however, caffeine also has its drawbacks and this has allowed a number of alternative energy-boosting ingredients to come forward. NutritionInsight speaks to industry experts to find out more on caffeine alternatives that are seeing a boom in popularity.

Health & Nutrition News

“Lettuce be happy”: Fruit and vegetables boost mental health, says UK study

20 Feb 2019 --- The daily consumption of fruit and vegetables is not just good for our physical health but can also improve mental wellbeing, according to a longitudinal study from the University of Leeds, UK. Increasing the frequency and quantity of consumption may also affect mental health. Although the association between mental health and fruit and vegetable intake appears to be strong, the researchers note more research is needed to determine whether this is causal.

Health & Nutrition News

Protein popcorn anyone? Breeding scheme and novel CRISPR-Cas9 method could spur high-protein cereals

20 Feb 2019 --- US researchers have successfully increased lysine levels in popcorn and sorghum by adopting different approaches – one being a traditional breeding scheme and the other, an emergent CRISPR-Cas9 method. The key amino acid lysine is typically scarce in many cereal grains and higher levels could, thus, add nutritional and economic value, broadening the appeal of grains. Boosting the protein profile of sorghum, which is a dietary staple in some developing parts of the world, could make the crop a more complete source of nutrition for people and livestock.

More Articles