Feature

Health scare of the week: How BPA increases anxiety

A new study shows that BPA has an affect on the genes that control the release of oxytocin.

A new study adds to the growing concern over the potentially harmful effects of bisphenol A (BPA)—a chemical commonly found in plastic household products, food containers, and even paper receipts. Research has linked high levels of BPA to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in adults, as well as to behavioral problems in young girls. BPA can also “cause anxiety in a variety of species,” though scientists previously did not know “why and how that happens,” Heather Patisaul, a professor of biology at North Carolina State University, tells ScienceDaily.com. To find out, Patisaul and her colleagues exposed rats to low levels of BPA comparable to those found in humans. The rats became far more anxious than rats that weren’t exposed to BPA. And, for the first time, researchers discovered why: The chemical disrupted the activity of at least two genes in the amygdala—the part of the brain that helps control how both humans and rats cope with stress and fear. Those genes, in turn, blocked the release of oxytocin, a hormone linked to secure feelings of trust and attachment.

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