I had an enquiry this month about some research that touching paper can make you fat. Now, I know of a lot of things that can make you fat - doughnuts, inadequate sleep, refusing to budge from the sofa....but touching paper? Not something I had heard of - so I thought I would look into this...
What is this all about?
You may have heard of a chemical called BPA (or bisphenol A to give it its full scientific name). Over 2 million tonnes of the stuff is produced world-wide and used in items such as CDs, food containers, the lining of bottle tops etc. BPA was recently in the press after it was found to be used in baby and adult drinks bottles, causing concerns over safety and prompting a ban from it's use in baby bottles.
The same chemical is found in the coating of till receipts - but is it a concern?
Well, yes, maybe it is. It seems that dermal (skin) contact can lead to increased levels of BPA in our bodies too - and studies in rats have shown that BPA can increase fat deposition in the liver (a risk for liver disease and diabetes). It has also been shown to raise blood pressure - a precursor of heart disease - and can cross the placenta, leading to increased risk of disease in offspring. Further research has also shown that BPA can promote the development of fat cells.
Whether this equates to making people fatter in day-to-day life is difficult to prove - is it the BPA lining the can or just the coke it contains that is contributing to obesity and diabetes??!! Interestingly, Coca-Cola has stated on their website that it has removed BPA from its plastic bottles, yet it still remains in the aluminium cans (of course, Coca-Cola isn't alone) - I'm not sure of the logic behind that one.
So can paper actually make you fat?
If till receipts make you fat, we would see all checkout assistants struggling to do up their uniforms - so we shouldn't panic unduly when handed our receipt. We should probably be more concerned about the contents of our food trolley!
The scientific evidence does suggest that we are getting an increased exposure to BPA - not just from till receipts but from food and drink containers too. The European Food Safey Authority is currently undertaking an assessment of the risks of BPA - the results of which I await with interest.
However, by avoiding processed food and canned / bottled food and drinks as far as possible, you will reduce your BPA exposure. Store hot food in glass containers rather than plastic. In, fact, why not just avoid plastic wherever you can....and reduce the rubbish we inflict on our planet anyway. Your waistline and health may well thank you for it too.