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Type 2 and Environmental Chemicals Linked

Diane Fennell

July 20, 2012

Adding to the evidence that there are multiple factors behind the Type 2 diabetes epidemic, several more studies have come out suggesting a possible link between the condition and various chemicals in the environment:

Chemicals in Personal Care Products May Increase Women’s Diabetes Risk
We’ve written previously about research showing a possible link between phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates), substances found in items ranging from cosmetics to hairsprays to automobiles, and Type 2 diabetes. In a recent study, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital analyzed the urinary concentration of phthalates in over 2,300 women and discovered a link between increased levels of these chemicals in the body and a heightened risk of Type 2. Women with the highest levels of certain types of phthalates had almost double the risk of Type 2 diabetes as women with the lowest levels of those chemicals.

The researchers caution that further studies are needed to determine whether the increased levels of phthalates in the body may have contributed the diabetes or vice-versa, noting that certain medical devices and medicines used to treat diabetes contain phtalates.

“This is an important first step in exploring the connection between phthalates and diabetes,” noted lead researcher Tamara James-Todd, PhD.

For more information, read the article “Chemicals in Personal Care Products — Phthalates — May Increase Risk of Diabetes in Women” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

POPs and Metabolic Syndrome
Meanwhile, scientists in Norway are finding that substances known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), found in fatty foods such as dairy products, fatty fish, and other meats, can contribute to insulin resistance.

According to post-doctoral researcher Jerome Ruzzin at the University of Bergen, “A great number of studies are now showing that people with high concentrations of POPs in their body are developing metabolic syndrome. We are talking about ordinary people who live in normal environments, so this means that we are being exposed to far too high levels of POPs that may have a major impact on our health.”

To learn more, read the article “Pollutants May Contribute to Illness and Becoming Overweight” from the Research Council of Norway.

Fungicide Used on Crops Associated With Insulin Resistance
In research presented at the Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting, a link was found between the chemical tolyfluanid, used on farm crops in a number of countries outside the United States and on the paint in some ships, and insulin resistance. The investigators looked at the effect of the fungicide on fat cells in mouse tissue and discovered that cells exposed to the substance had a reduced response to insulin.

“For the public, this raises the specter of environmental pollutants as potential contributors to the metabolic disease epidemic,” said researcher Robert Sargis, MD, PhD.

To learn more, read the piece “Fungicide Used on Farm Crops Linked to Insulin Resistance” or see the presentation abstract from the Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting & Expo (free registration required).



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