September 20 2012

Blame Game Alert: Now It's the Food Wrapper!

Julie Gunlock

Boy, it sure is hard to keep track of all these supposed causes of obesity: happy meals, school lunches, video games, television commercials, cartoons, lack of community parks, violent neighborhoods, soda, fat, salt, sugar, ice cream, milk, beef, fast food, energy drinks, sugary cereals...

Now, it's chemicals.

The latest screaming headline blames a chemical called Bisphenol-A (BPA) which is found mostly in plastic products and in canned food liners.  The geniuses behind this latest study found a correlation between children’s blood levels of BPA and obesity.  So, the higher the BPA levels, the higher the rates of obesity.

Oh, today’s wacky scientists!  They sure do love a good, juicy correlation. Of course, the news media can be counted on never to mention that correlation does not equal causation—in other words, this study is meaningless. But what does that matter when you're trying to scare the crap out of parents.

The BPA-obesity connection isn't really too hard for a person to figure out.  Processed foods which are typically higher in calories are usually contained in some sort of a plastic wrapper, box or bag.  Minute amounts of the BPA can be transferred to the food product and then into the body's blood stream when that food is consumed.  The same is true for sodas, juices and other higher calorie sugary beverages which are popular with kids and are also usually found in a plastic container.

The more of these foods you eat, the higher your weight and your levels of BPA.  Kids who eat more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, fresh meats and fish are less likely to have high levels of BPA because those products are less likely to be wrapped in a plastic container. And they’re likely to be lower weight because fresh and whole foods are generally lower in calories.

To some degree, it’s easy to understand the temptation to throw around these theories.  People are desperate to find THE THING that causes obesity. But obesity is a complicated issue with no one singular cause. 

The sooner we all come to terms with it the faster we focus on real solutions for obese kids: parents taking a greater role in their children’s nutrition.

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