Warning: Drinking Bottled Water Could Make you Fat!

By Chris Kresser, “The Healthy Skeptic”

I came across some interesting research the other day concerning the potential role of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in regulating weight.

BPA is a chemical that is found in several plastics and plastic additives. It’s in the water bottles folks carry to gyms and in the baby bottles moms use to feed their infants. And it’s in almost all of our bodies.

A CDC study in 2007 found that 92% of 2,500 subjects studies had detectable amounts of BPA in their urine.

A study published in 2002 by Masuno and colleagues demonstrated that relatively small amounts of BPA significantly reduced insulin sensitivity and accelerated the formation of adipocytes (fat cells). In other words, BPA made the mice fat.

Not only did BPA trigger the conversion of pre-adipocytes to adipocytes, it also stimulated the conversion process once triggering had occurred. This “double-whammy” effect caused a 1,300% increase in fat levels, compared with a 150% increase with insulin alone.

The worldwide obesity epidemic has been primarily explained in terms of poor diet, decreases in exercise, and other lifestyle factors. (I am planning a future series on weight loss, so stay tuned!) However, this research raises the possibility that hormone-disrupting contaminants such as BPA may play a role in regulating weight. BPA triggers and then stimulates two of the key biological mechanisms underlying obesity. It increases the number of fat cells, and it enhances their fat storage.

Health authorities in the US make the claim that the levels of BPA found in most humans are not a risk to human health. However, researchers working in the field have a different view. Ample evidence suggests that BPA can harm lab animals at concentrations below those already occurring in most people.

A report published in Reproductive Toxicology by 38 scientists evaluated the strength of data from more than 700 BPA studies.

The panel concluded that BPA exposure in the womb permanently alters the genes of animals, impairs the function of organs in ways that persist into adulthood, and triggers brain, behavioral, and reproductive effects, including diminished sperm production. Effects deemed likely included a heightened sensitivity to carcinogens, impaired immunity, and diminished insulin sensitivity.

Although the jury is still out on BPA’s ability to cause weight gain in humans, I think the consequences of obesity and the diseases it’s linked to far outweigh the “convenience” of drinking out of plastic water bottles. Of course there are several other reasons not to use plastic water bottles, including the waste they generate and their harmful effect on oceans and sea life.

So do yourself and the planet a favor: get a stainless steel water bottle, and abstain from drinking bottled water! I like the Klean Kanteen brand, but there are many others.

It has also been shown that polycarbonate baby bottles heated by microwave leach BPA into milk fed to infants. So Moms, please don’t heat those bottles in the microwave!

My friend Chris Kresser runs an awesome website called “The Healthy Skeptic” where he debunks all sorts of myths about nutrition and health- just like I do here! You can check out his blog here.

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  • Angela Rockstead


  • Fred

    Oh no, this was bad news! What type of bottles are we talking about here? Does all regular PET-bottles contain BPA? I always take an old PET-bottle to the gym, seems pretty inconvenient to bring a steel one.

    Anyways, thanks for a cool blog!

  • alvin

    What about water in the thin plastic bottles? Are they safer than the polycarbonate bottles?

  • Talk about getting fat. Just replace the convenience of bottled water with the “other” convenience beverage…soft drinks. They are laden with high fructose corn syrup…You can always run to the outdoor water fountain…knock the bird poop off and drink to your heart’s content. Nothing like a fresh drink of tepid, bird poop laden water to quench one’s thirst.

    “Bottles for a Healthier Earth”

  • Pam

    I used to reuse old plastic water bottles too – I thought I was being thrifty. I switched to aluminum water bottles about three years ago, and use filtered water from my fridge. The water is not only healthier, it tastes better too. I like SIGG bottles myself, but the stainless steel bottles Jonny mentions are great as well.

  • Paul

    “So do yourself and the planet a favor…and abstain from drinking bottled water!”

    This advice doesn’t jive with Bowden’s recommendations in The 150 Healthiest Foods, in which he states that he only drinks bottled water because he doesn’t trust the government to regulate tap water.

    So, what are we to do?

    • Hi Paul

      I can’t speak for Chris- who wrote the article- but my feeling is that it was an important article because it raises awareness of the problems with plastic in general. I still buy bottled water but i try to get it from the most reputable sources and whenever possible i transfer to a steel water bottle when carrying it around. It’s not perfect, but what are you going to do? You have to choose your battles..


      • Paul

        Thanks for the reply. It should be noted that not all plastics are created equal. Until science proves otherwise (which it probably will) single use, disposable water bottles are typically made from “safe” plastic and are therefore ok to use.

        On the other hand, those big jugs atop the water-cooler in your office are usually made of big bad #7.

        Here is some info from:

        Safer Choices:
        Select safe plastics that use polyethylene (#1, #2, and #4) and polypropylene (#5), which require the use of less toxic additives. They also are non-chlorinated.

        Avoid choosing products that use polyvinyl chloride (#3), polystyrene (#6), and polycarbonate (#7) which often are found in baby bottles or sippy cups.

      • Fred

        But the bottles Chris is referring to, is that regular PET-bottles? I thought they where considered pretty safe, and that it was mainly PS and PVC plastics we should avoid. In other words the ones with a 3,6 or 7 underneath?

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  • […] Warning: Drinking Bottled Water Could Make you Fat! […]

  • Hello! Great blog post. You had some really great information. Shocking, but interesting and beneficial. BPA is proving to have more and more negative side effects as time goes on! Thanks for keeping us updated.

    Keep up the great work!

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