Who would have thunk it? In recent years medical professionals have noticed a ballooning in the number of very overweight babies being born. For a long time the thought was that more and more obese mothers equals more and more obese babies, but over time it became evident this connection could not explain away all the increase in chubby babies. A Harvard study reported that “obesity” in babies has increased over 70% since 1980. Since these babies only breast feed or drink formula, processed food and soda can not be blamed for their weight. Now comes word that exposure to some of the chemicals in common plastics, in the womb and early in life, could be the reason for the “epidemic” of childhood obesity. The Mail from the United Kingdom went so far as to say:
“Pregnant women who eat food that has been wrapped in plastic could make their unborn baby obese in later life…. Chemicals in plastic food wrapping and plastic feeding bottles are believed to interfere with the body hormones that regulate fat levels and help prevent obesity”.
That quote seems to indicate that the obesity is “later in life”, but new research shows these children are often being born obese.
I have known for years and have written many times that we should not use Teflon coated pans, heat food in plastic containers, or drink out of certain types of plastic bottles, but I have always assumed that the mere contact with plastic could not have harmful effects. It seemed to make sense that plastic wrap, bags, plates, etc., as long as they were not heated or kept in contact with foods for long periods of time, were safe. Now I am not so sure that assumption is accurate. When I think of all the food; meat, cheese, lettuce, vegetables, pretty much everything, that comes packaged in plastic, my head starts to throb! What are we to do though? Well, we can avoid cooking or heating foods in plastic. We can use stainless steel cookware and cook on lower heats. We can also avoid canned foods and water bottles that contain BPA. There is a lot we can do to lower our exposure. But can we really completely give up plastic bags to store lunch or vegetables in? I am not sure, but like so much in life that is unhealthy, the more realistic goal is probably reducing your exposure, not driving yourself crazy trying to eliminate all use of plastic.
If you are a pregnant woman or the parent of young children though, the latest research seems to show your concern should be heightened, and perhaps your avoidance should be more complete. There is a very good article I just found online as I was writing this post. It is at the Newsweek website and goes into much more detail on the history and results of this research into the bad side of plastics. That article should be a suggested read for new or expecting parents.
Other research has already shown that babies exposed in utero to chemicals like herbicides, insecticides, or BPA, have an increased risk of health problems and obesity later in life. Now we can add plastics to that list.