Here's one more reason to limit your bisphenol A (BPA) exposure, especially during pregnancy: It could curb your child's motivation to exercise later.
You've probably heard that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) can be dangerous to your health, but recent research from a University of Missouri study found that mice who were exposed to this chemical and ethinyl estradiol (EE)—an estrogen found in birth control—through their mother's diet during pregnancy were less active than the control mice and had metabolism changes that could lead to weight gain down the line.
The problem with BPA
While having concerns about BPA in pregnancy isn't new, this recent study's results surprised the researchers, who initially set out to discover how the chemical acts as a potential contributor to obesity. Instead, they found that the mice that were exposed to BPA during pregnancy moved less during their prime activity hours and slept more. "It would suggest that early exposure to BPA could disrupt the brain region that determines motivation to engage in exercise and voluntary activity," says Cheryl Rosenfeld, Ph.D., a researcher in MU's Bond Life Sciences Center and associate professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine. She says the same brain regions that control motivation in animals govern that in humans. After weaning and no longer being exposed to BPA, it was too late, their brains were already rewired, she says. There were also changes that affected the mice's metabolism: their bodies were burning carbohydrates when they should have been burning fat.
An impact on generations to come
This also could have a transgenerational effect, Rosenfeld says. "One hit of BPA exposure could be affecting our grandchildren's generation with current exposure," she says. When a pregnant woman is exposed to chemicals like BPA, her offspring are exposed, and those fetal germs cells exposed to environmental toxins and chemicals could be passed down to your grandchildren's generation. "We need to understand the mechanisms and how BPA is affecting motivation in the brain," Rosenfeld says. As of right now, scientists and researchers don't know how to reverse it.
"There's been a lot of interest in how our genetics might be governing our motivation to engage in exercise and I think what our current finding suggests that it's not just intrinsic factors, like genetics, but we have to be concerned about the extrinsic factors, like environmental chemicals, that could impact whether an individual is motivated to exercise," Rosenfeld says.
Where is BPA?
You may have first heard about BPA when concerns about it being in baby bottles and sippy cups led to the Food and Drug Administration banning the chemical from those products. You've also probably heard that you should drink from stainless steel water bottles whenever possible. So where exactly is BPA found? It's in plastic containers that aren't labeled BPA-free, tin cans, dental sealants, grocery and gas station receipts, as well as used in the manufacturing of polycarbonate products which include, electronics, sports equipment, and medical devices.
Try to limit exposure by rinsing off vegetables that come out of tin cans (even better—eat fresh or frozen), using glass or metal food storage containers whenever possible, and avoid touching receipts.