BPA and Your Health, Stem Cells, and La Croix

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I love drinking those creatively flavored and hipster loved “La Croix” waters. However, I have to say that a recent paper published in JAMA about the health effects of BPA freaked me out a bit, as I know those cans are lined with plastics. Let’s dig in.

What is BPA?

BPA stands for bisphenol-A. It’s a plastic-like chemical that’s clear and tough, so it makes up plastic water bottles, food storage containers, and believe or not the paper receipts you get at the store. As a result, it’s one of the most commonly produced chemicals on earth right now. That would all be fine, except BPA has some issues.

First, BPA acts like estrogen, so it has a weak hormonal effect on the body. However, it can also block estrogen receptors. Hence, it’s called an “Endocrine Disrupting Chemical”. It’s also been linked to obesity.

The European Union in 2019 placed the chemical on its list of “High Concern” chemicals while the US FDA still lists it as “GRAS” (Generally Recognized as Safe). However, in 2012, the US FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, so it’s not GRAS for babies?

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Products Containing BPA

  • Believe it or not, one of the highest levels of BPA that you can come in contact with is a cash register receipt. These thermal printing papers are often coated with BPA. Even BPA free receipts have BPS, BPAs evil twin cousin.
  • Canned foods are another major source of BPA because the cans are lined with plastic.
  • Water bottles. More and more we’re seeing “BPA Free” water bottles, but these often contain a chemical called BHPF. This chemical also messes with estrogen and causes fertility problems in animal models.

The New Scary Research on BPA

The new research looked at BPA levels in the urine of almost four thousand people aged 20 and up (1). During about 10 years of follow-up, 344 deaths occurred, including 71 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 75 deaths from cancer. Participants with higher urinary BPA levels were at higher risk for death. Overall, BPA was linked to about a 50% higher risk of all-cause or heart disease risk.

While this seems like a larger study, realize that when you’re measuring deaths in both young and old people, you almost can’t go big enough. Meaning, this study only recorded 344 deaths over ten years. By the time you segment those deaths into categories, you begin getting smaller numbers which can cause statistical problems. Be that as it may, they did find an association between BPA and death. However, always remember that association is not causation. Meaning that proving that A is associated to B is not the same as proving A causes B.

Your Stem Cells and BPA

Turns out that BPA can do some nasty stuff to your mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Remember these cells are the repairmen that live throughout your tissues. Let’s dig in.

BPA has been shown to cause your MSCs in fat to want to turn into more fat, which fits with the research that shows that people with higher BPA levels are more likely to be obese (2). BPA also messed with and reduced the ability of bone marrow MSCs to grow in culture (3). In other types of MSCs, it caused them to be more likely to cause tumors (4).

Hence, getting rid of your BPA exposure prior to a stem cell procedure is likely a good idea. How do you do that?

  1. Make sure you eliminate all of the BPA products in your life.
  2. Don’t microwave food in plastic containers.
  3. Ask them to email you your receipts!
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Water Cans and BPA

I don’t know about you, I’ve become a stone-cold La Croix addict. I do dabble in the Whole Foods brand “Waterloo” from time to time, but in the summer I bet I suck down 5-6 cans of artfully flavored soda water a day. Hence, when I read the study above, I kind of freaked out a bit. Do these cans have BPA? Am I one of those with high BPA levels?

Turns out that La Croix went BPA free in April of 2019. In addition, the Whole Foods brand Waterloo is also BPA free. What I can’t find is if either of these brands switched to a liner containing BPS or BHPF.

The upshot? I was certainly glad to see that my flavored water can addiction isn’t upping my BPA levels. In the meantime, I’ll still avoid those damn receipts!



(1) Bao W, Liu B, Rong S, Dai SY, Trasande L, Lehmler H. Association Between Bisphenol A Exposure and Risk of All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in US Adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(8):e2011620. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.11620

(2) Salehpour A, Shidfar F, Hedayati M, Neshatbini Tehrani A, Farshad AA, Mohammadi S. Bisphenol A enhances adipogenic signaling pathways in human mesenchymal stem cells. Genes Environ. 2020;42:13. Published 2020 Mar 11. doi:10.1186/s41021-020-00150-6

(3) Amy L. Strong, David F. B. Miller, Aaron M. Buechlein, Fang Fang, Julie Glowacki, John A. McLachlan, Kenneth P. Nephew, Matthew E. Burow & Bruce A. Bunnell (2016) Bisphenol A alters the self-renewal and differentiation capacity of human bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells, Endocrine Disruptors, 4:1, DOI: 10.1080/23273747.2016.1200344

(4) Wang KH, Kao AP, Chang CC, Lin TC, Kuo TC. Bisphenol A at environmentally relevant doses induces cyclooxygenase-2 expression and promotes invasion of human mesenchymal stem cells derived from uterine myoma tissue. Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2013;52(2):246-252. doi:10.1016/j.tjog.2013.04.016

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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