Health Buzz: Childhood Obesity Linked to BPA, Study Suggests

Hidden risks of chronic stress; what your poo says about you

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Study: Children With Higher Levels of BPA Twice as Likely to be Obese

The BPA food packaging chemical may be tied to childhood obesity, suggests a study published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a plastics chemical that's been used in food packaging, metal can linings, and medical goods since the 1960s, reports the Associated Press, and traces of the chemical can be found in most Americans. Although government officials have deemed BPA to be safe in low levels, the latest study revealed that children with the highest levels of BPA in their urine were twice as likely to be obese than those with the lowest levels. While the study raises provocative questions about the link between environmental chemicals and obesity, its researchers clarify that their findings don't prove that BPA causes weight gain in children. There are many other reasons why children become obese, says study author Leonardo Trasande, associate professor in pediatrics, environmental medicine, and health policy at New York University. "Clearly unhealthy diet and poor physical activity are the leading factors contributing to obesity in the United States, especially in children," he told the AP.

The importance of healthy dieting and an active lifestyle is especially evident this week, as another study released Tuesday projects that half of American adults will be obese by 2030. In every state, obesity would reach at least 44 percent by 2030, and over 60 percent in 13 states, predicts the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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  • Hidden Risks of Chronic Stress

    According to a recent American Psychological Association poll, nearly a quarter of Americans confessed to currently feeling under "extreme stress." Respondents especially blamed money, work, and the economy—a feeling 50-year-old Sue Wasserman knows all too well. In February, the public relations manager left Atlanta after her job was eliminated by a corporate restructuring and took a new post in Asheville, N.C. When that proved a bad fit, she struck out on her own as a freelance writer and publicist. Though Wasserman is thrilled some days to be living near the Blue Ridge Mountains, the uncertainty of her income overwhelms her. "There's a sense of foreboding—of 'What did I just do?' " she says.

    Short periods of tension can actually be beneficial to people, sharpening thinking and heightening physical response in situations where performance counts, such as business meetings or athletic competitions. But experts are clear that when individuals are routinely under assault—over money, health woes, a daily freeway commute, whatever—a biological system that was designed to occasionally fight or flee a predator gets markedly out of balance. "The body's delicate feedback system starts to malfunction," says David Spiegel, director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford University.

    Stress has been found to play a role in so many diseases of modern life—from asthma, depression, and migraine flares to heart attacks, cancer, and diabetes—that it likely accounts for more than half of the country's healthcare-related expenses, says George Chrousos, a distinguished visiting scientist at the National Institutes of Health. In March, Chrousos spearheaded a conference on "The Profound Impact of Stress" in Washington, D.C., to educate policymakers and the public. [Read more: Hidden Risks of Chronic Stress]

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    • What Your Poo Says About You

      As I get older, I've noticed that my friends are talking more about subjects we once considered taboo, writes U.S. News blogger Tamara Duker Freuman. Maybe it's the Facebook effect, or perhaps the loss of bodily shame associated with going through childbirth. Maybe it's a function of having young kids at home, so the subject of bodily functions becomes as common as the weather. Whatever it is, I'm finding that the topic of poo comes up in conversation. A lot.