UA researchers link an increase in diabetes cases with higher concentration of Bisphenol A levels in blood
This substance is a chemical found in most plastic and cans that are used daily.
Researchers Juan Martínez-Pinna and Sergi Soriano at the University of Alicante. Photo: Roberto Ruiz (UA)
Alicante. Monday, 18 july 2016
Drinking a soda, eating canned food or heating a tupperware are gestures that we repeatedly do every day without knowing the effects on our health. University of Alicante Researchers Juan Martínez-Pinna and Sergi Soriano, from the Department of Physiology, Genetics and Microbiology, along with Professor Angel Nadal, Professor of Physiology at the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH), warn as excessive our exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical present in all kinds of plastic packaging that may increase the risk of diabetes.
Data from the World Health Organization reveal that diabetes cases have increased rapidly. In fact, nearly 200 million people worldwide suffer from it and it is estimated that this figure will double by 2030. The current outbreak of diabetes is partly due to our sedentary life and high-calorie lifestyle. However, other environmental factors such as the presence of endocrine disruptors, including bisphenol A (BPA), could also play an important role.
Several scientific studies argue that this endocrine disruptor blocks or interferes with the action of hormones, particularly estrogen, and consider it a risk factor associated with various diseases such as obesity and diabetes, and some cancer types.
UA Researchers at the Department of Physiology, Genetics and Microbiology have conducted a study using the beta cells of the endocrine pancreas as a model. "The function of this cell, also called pancreatic beta, is to produce insulin and therefore to regulate blood glucose levels," Martínez-Pinna explained.
The study found that insulin secretion is altered when these cells are incubated with relevant doses of Bisphenol A, doses that could be found in the blood and fluids of any person living in a developed society.
Also, pancreatic beta cells are electrically excitable, a feature shared with neurons. "When incubated with Bisphenol A, the electrical signal, which is an indirect measure of insulin secretion, is altered" Martínez-Pinna stated.
The results of the study suggest a relationship between the presence of this endocrine disruptor in the blood or fluids and the development of type 2 diabetes, also caused by overweight and a sedentary lifestyle. "Bisphenol A is a potent estrogen and alters the function of the pancreatic beta cell insulin production," says Martínez-Pinna.
At present, the UA researchers are using the same research methodology with neurons, because studies that point to the possible connection of some neurological diseases with Bisphenol A.
In this regard, epidemiological data evoke that "there can be no relationship between the presence of Bisphenol A and neurological diseases such as autism in children, so we have begun to study what happens when a neuron is exposed to relevant doses of this endocrine disruptor in order to determine whether it produces any effect or not," he explained.
Martínez-Pinna found that "Bisphenol A is no longer used in Europe to manufacture plastic containers such as baby’s bottles, and regular bottles of water do not usually have this chemical, although it is present in other plastic products and resins lining the inside of aluminum cans or canned soda."
In these cases, Bisphenol A molecules are released when stimulated with increasing temperature and, when ingested, they appear in blood and other bodily fluids, as they are very soluble.
In order to minimize exposure to Bisphenol A the main measure is to avoid eating packaged food and beverages in plastic and especially those products subject to extreme factors such as temperature, salinity or acidity. "A first step is to reuse glass containers and to exclude from our diet precooked food directly heated in the microwave with the container," UA professor recommended.