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An engaged research study to assess the effect of a ‘real-world’ dietary intervention on urinary bisphenol A (BPA) levels in teenagers
  1. Tamara S Galloway1,
  2. Nigel Baglin2,
  3. Benjamin P Lee3,
  4. Anna L Kocur3,
  5. Maggie H Shepherd4,5,
  6. Anna M Steele4,5,
  7. BPA Schools Study Consortium6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11,
  8. Lorna W Harries3
  1. 1 College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  2. 2 Research Projects, St Lukes campus, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  3. 3 RNA-Mediated Disease Mechanisms Group, Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, UK
  4. 4 National Institute for Health Research Exeter Clinical Research Facility, Royal Devon and Exeter National Health Service Foundation Trust, Exeter, UK
  5. 5 Medical School Building 03.11, University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, UK
  6. 6 Clyst Vale Community College, Broadclyst, UK
  7. 7 Exeter School, Exeter, UK
  8. 8 South Dartmoor Community College, Ashburton, Devon
  9. 9 Honiton Community College, Honiton, UK
  10. 10 Exeter College, Exeter, UK
  11. 11 Exeter Mathematics School, Exeter, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lorna W Harries; L.W.Harries{at}


Objective Bisphenol A (BPA) has been associated with adverse human health outcomes and exposure to this compound is near-ubiquitous in the Western world. We aimed to examine whether self-moderation of BPA exposure is possible by altering diet in a real-world setting.

Design An Engaged Research dietary intervention study designed, implemented and analysed by healthy teenagers from six schools and undertaken in their own homes.

Participants A total of 94 students aged between 17 and 19 years from schools in the South West of the UK provided diet diaries and urine samples for analysis.

Intervention Researcher participants designed a set of literature-informed guidelines for the reduction of dietary BPA to be followed for 7 days.

Main outcome measures Creatinine-adjusted urinary BPA levels were taken before and after the intervention. Information on packaging and food/drink ingested was used to calculate a BPA risk score for anticipated exposure. A qualitative analysis was carried out to identify themes addressing long-term sustainability of the diet.

Results BPA was detected in urine of 86% of participants at baseline at a median value of 1.22 ng/mL (IQR 1.99). No effect of the intervention diet on BPA levels was identified overall (P=0.25), but there was a positive association in those participants who showed a drop in urinary BPA concentration postintervention and their initial BPA level (P=0.003). Qualitative analysis identified themes around feelings of lifestyle restriction and the inadequacy of current labelling practices.

Conclusions We found no evidence in this self-administered intervention study that it was possible to moderate BPA exposure by diet in a real-world setting. Furthermore, our study participants indicated that they would be unlikely to sustain such a diet long term, due to the difficulty in identifying BPA-free foods.

  • bisphenol A
  • dietary intervention
  • public health
  • community
  • engaged research
  • endocrine disrupting chemical
  • plastic packaging
  • polycarbonate

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  • Contributors TSG contributed to study design and cowrote the paper. NB contributed to study design and participant involvement. BPL managed the technical aspects of the project and reviewed the manuscript. ALK contributed to data entry and interpretation and reviewed the manuscript. BPA SSC members designed and interpreted the study and contributed to the manuscript. MHS carried out the qualitative analysis and reviewed the manuscript. AMS managed sample collection, contributed to study design and reviewed the manuscript. LWH: principal investigator, managed the study, wrote the manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by a Wellcome Trust People Award to LWH and TSG (grant no 105162/Z/14/Z). TSG was additionally supported by NERC awards NE/L007010 and NE/N006178/1

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethical permission was granted by the University of Exeter Medical School Ethics Committee (reference no 15/07/074), and the study was carried out in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Data are available on reasonable request by emailing the corresponding author (

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it first published. The location of ’South Dartmoor Comminity College' was corrected to ’Ashburton, Devon'.

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