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Your plastic water bottle may actually be making you gain weight

At my last spin class, I noticed that over half of the class — myself included — was guzzling water from plastic bottles while dialing up the resistance. But having just seen a new study linking a common chemical compound in plastics to fat cell growth, here’s why I plan on ditching the plastic next time I strap into my bike.

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By now, many of us have heard of BPA, or bisphenol A — the chemical compound found in many plastics that has been linked to everything ranging from hormonal disruption to increased susceptibility to cancer. Following the alarming headlines about BPA in plastics, many companies switched over to a BPA replacement called bisphenol S (BPS for short), marketing their plastics as “BPA-free.” But, as it turns out, in many cases that is nothing but a marketing ploy, as the lesser known BPS can have nasty effects on your health as well.

A new Canadian study has found that BPS, like BPA, can actually trigger fat cell growth:  “The study is the first to show that BPS exposure can induce the formation of human fat cells,” explains Health Canada’s Dr. Ella Atla, the study’s senior author. “Our research indicates BPS and BPA have comparable effects on fat cells and their metabolism.” This study arrives on the heels of research showing other negative impacts of BPS: for instance, a  2013 study from the University of Texas found that, like BPA, BPS can also mimic estrogen and destabilize your hormones.

So that all sucks. Tossing my plastic bottle in the recycling bin as we speak!

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And how did the study authors arrive at the conclusion that BPS causes fat cell gain? Researchers took human cells from thighs, hips or abdomens of female volunteers and exposed these isolated cells to BPS over the course of two weeks. They found that cells exposed to tiny amounts of BPS and those exposed to the biggest concentrations of the chemical compound showed the most fat growth, while those exposed to moderate amounts showed less.

But you can take some steps to limit your exposure to these harmful substances:

  • Ditch your plastic bottles by carrying your own glass, ceramic or steel container. And if you must buy bottled water, opt for brands that sell water in glass bottles.
  • Avoid drinking from plastic cups or using other plastic kitchenware.
  • This is a weird one — avoid touching receipts, as they are often coated with BPA or BPS. Simply go paperless or request the receipt in the bag.
  • Swap out canned foods for dry and fresh foods where possible, as BPA and BPS can lurk on the inside of cans.
  • Do not microwave food in plastic — put food into your own non-plastic glass or ceramic microwave-safe containers instead.
  • Be skeptical of “BPA-free” labels, as we now know the chemicals used to replace BPA often have similar negative health effects as BPA.

That being said, BPA and BPS are literally everywhere, and you’d basically have to live off the grid to avoid them entirely. For instance, a study published in Environmental Science & Technology found traces of BPS in everything ranging from our money to toilet paper to business cards, while forms of BPA have even been found in electronic devices like cell phones and linked to rising rates of obesity.

Now if you excuse me, I’m going to slam my laptop shut and run off into the woods.

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