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Kick the can: how BPA in canned drinks impacts blood pressure

BPA is everywhere, from receipts to canned foods. How exactly does it impact blood pressure?

Study under review: Exposure to bisphenol A from drinking canned beverages increases blood pressure: randomized crossover trial

Introduction

Modern consumers are constantly flooded with warnings of harmful chemicals in everyday products. It’s so common for these warnings to be falsified or overblown that finding danger in harmless chemicals has almost become cliche. Unfortunately, these warnings distract from reports on chemicals that could actually cause harm. One of these ubiquitous harmful chemicals is bisphenol A (BPA).

BPA is a critical component of plastic and epoxy manufacturing, which means it’s in a variety of products, even those that you wouldn’t expect to find any plastic in, like dental fillings and aluminum cans. These cans are lined with a variety of materials, including plastics and epoxies, that prevent the liquid contents from degrading or oxidizing the aluminum of the can.

The BPA in can linings is an estrogen analogue, which means it can interfere with hormonal signaling. Most people normally think of estrogen as a hormone related to secondary sex characteristics and fertility, but it is also involved in many other processes, such as liver function and insulin response[1]. Consequently, researchers have begun to study the effects of BPA on various health parameters. As might be expected, the primary focus of initial research was on the effects of BPA on fertility, especially in light of the fact that environmental BPA contamination generally impairs animal reproduction and development[2].

As the field matures, however, researchers are starting to assess a variety of other health parameters that could be affected by BPA (as seen in Figure 1), including blood pressure. Some previous studies have shown a correlation between canned beverage consumption or BPA exposure and hypertension[3], but there are very few studies to assess whether BPA exposure directly causes changes in blood pressure. This study was a follow-up on previous work conducted by the authors. It specifically sought to determine whether the BPA exposure from drinking canned beverages could affect blood pressure.

Figure 1: BPA in humans, compared to animal trials

Sources: Vandenburg et al., Rev Environ Health. 2013.
vom Saal & Hughes, Environ Health Perspect. 2005.

BPA, a component of plastic and epoxy manufacturing, is found in the lining of beverage cans and many other products. It is an estrogen analogue and may cause a variety of health problems. The authors of this study examined whether BPA can affect blood pressure.

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The big picture

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