BBP Increases Fat Stores

Everyday science all over the world proves and disproves more and more. I think it is just fascinating! Sometimes we try so hard to live and eat correctly, only to find that even what we are doing is not good enough. Now, with this new news, we need to worry about the food preparation of even the organic foods. Most all foods end up on some sort of conveyor belt. But when you read this, don’t get too disheartened. Every little thing we do to help ourselves add up and it’s worth doing.

BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate) is a chemical that is commonly used in the food manufacturing process.  According to a new study published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, this chemical can increase fat stores in the body even before we’re born.

Mahua Choudhury, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma  Rangel College of Pharmacy, led the study and used animal stem cells to identify changes to the epigenome of the stem cell when exposed to the chemical BBP, compared to a control.  Those cell lines that were exposed to higher levels of BBP also showed higher levels of adipogenesis, which is the process by which fat cells develop and can be as much as five times higher, depending upon the dose. I would like to note they did not identify which animal they were using. Maybe the dog, cat, pig, or, you do realize humans are classified as animals too.

They originally thought they would see some increase, but nothing that was this dramatic.  The stem cells are undifferentiated and capable of becoming different specialized cells.  Therefore, the epigenetic changes observed in the animal stem cells could affect not just an adult exposed to BBP, but also a growing fetus.  Exposing animal stem cells to varying concentrations of BBP were involved in the study.  Further study is indicated.

BBP is included in the chemical family called phthalates that are usually used to make plastics soft and malleable.  The primary human exposure comes from food consumption even though this chemical is used in products like carpet and vinyl flooring.  The BBP consumption through food is not in the preparation, but in the conveyor belts and plastic fittings on machines that are used to process many foods.  The foods then become contaminated when this BBP leaks into it from the plastic. Gee, who would have thought? But when you think about it, it makes sense. When in use, most machines can create heat which may heat up the plastics.

The chemical BBP is banned in all toys and childcare articles that are manufactured in, and imported into, the European Union (EU).  The EU has banned BBP’s in the production of nail polish also, as it is considered a carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction.  The U.S. has set limits on the amount of BBP that can be used in some consumer products, but has not taken the same steps as the EU.  More evidence is apparently needed for the government to step in. Just a thought, maybe it would be good if they checked more for BBP in toxicology and at the time of autopsies.

More than 1/3 of adult Americans are obese and leads to illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease with a cost to the U.S. healthcare system of $190 billion annually.

Originally thought that obesity was a simple problem dealing with diet and inactivity only,  they have not paid much attention to the impact the environment can have on how our genes are expressed.

Epigenetics is the study of how the environment, including chemicals, can alter gene expression without changing the genetic code.  Phthalates have been associated with obesity, but previously has not shown the mechanism by which BBP may cause fat accumulation and program the stem to become obese via an epigenetic balance, according to Choudhury.  Additional studies are planned to further study the effects of BBP on fat accumulation and obesity, and will be performed at Choudhury’s lab at Texas A&M.  

Somethings we may feel we can not correct on our own. However, every little grain of sand makes a mountain appear. Every molecule of water can make a full glass of water to drink. Every little thing we try to work on to better our health makes for a more healthy body. Don’t give up so easily.

–Dr Fredda Branyon