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Pesticides and pollutants in foods may be linked to diabetes risk, study suggests

By Nathan Gray+


There is a direct relationship between exposure to organic pollutants and pesticides in food, air and water and the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, warns new research.

The study, published in Environmental Research, analysed the concentrations of pollutants and pesticides in more than 300 people; finding that exposure to organic pollutants found in pesticides in foods, air and water are associated with an increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in adults.

The team of Spanish researchers demonstrate that people with higher concentrations of DDE –the main metabolite in the pesticide DDT– are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than other people.

Led by Juan Pedro Arrebola from the University of Granada the team found that the association applied regardless of age, gender and body mass index.

"Human adipose tissue – commonly known as ‘fat’ – acts as an energy reservoir and has an important metabolic function,” explained Arrebola. “However, adipose tissue can store potentially harmful substances, such as persistent organic pollutants (COPs)".

“The mechanism of action by which COPs increases the risk of diabetes is still unknown,” he said. “However, some researchers have suggested that COPs might cause an immunological response when they penetrate oestrogen receptors in tissues associated with the metabolism of sugars."

Study details

Arrebola and her team analysed concentrations of a specific group of COPs in the adipose tissue of 386 adult subjects assisted at San Cecilio hospital, Granada, and Santa Ana hospital, Motril, Spain.

COPs are a group of chemicals with diverse characteristics which are present in pesticides, industrial waste and building materials. These compounds penetrate the body mainly through food, but also through air or the skin. This makes COPs concentrations a useful marker of a subject's exposure to environmental pollutants and pesticides.

The team found that people with higher levels of COPs in adipose tissue were more likely to be diabetic, with a high DDT adipose level corresponding to a four-fold increase diabetes incidence.

Arrebola and her colleagues suggested that because these COPs tend to concentrate in body fat, they might be one of the reasons why obese people are more likely to develop diabetes – since the more fat the higher the COP concentrations in the body.

Source: Environmental Research