Chemical Pesticides May Increase Risk of Diabetes, says New Study
Chemical pesticides seem vital to agriculture if people are to eat grains and vegetables without having to compete with bugs and molds. Yet it is known that many of these chemicals linger in the environment and eventually make their way into the human body, where they can build up to toxic levels.
Now new studies have found that these high levels of pesticides may contribute to the development of Type II diabetes in overweight people who are already at risk. In addition, they may even promote weight gain in the first place.
Organochlorines and some other chemicals once used as pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) once widely used in electric motors and lighting, remain in the environment and are hence known as “persistent organic pollutants”. PCBs were banned in the 1970s and organochlorines, including DDT and dioxins, are banned or restricted in theUSand other western countries. Both substances were noted to cause wildlife mortality and have been linked with cancer, birth defects, liver damage, and other health hazards.
Although these chemicals are no longer sprayed on the fields, they remain in the environment because they do not break down. Tests have shown they are found in human tissue, and a new study reported in the Diabetes Care journal found patients with high levels in their blood may have an increased likelihood of developing Type II diabetes, particularly if they are overweight. Previous studies have also found pesticide levels in the body to be a significant factor in developing the disease, and research suggests that these pollutants may interfere with the body’s ability to process and regulate blood sugar.
These chemicals stay in the environment for many years and pass into plants. Eaten by animals, they build up in the creatures’ body tissue and are passed along the food chain to human beings. Because they tend to build up in the fat of animals, eating a diet rich in animal fats such as fatty meat, oily fish, milk, and cheese is the most likely cause of exposure for humans.
Oily fish has long been considered an extremely healthy food, and researchers say it should not be excluded from the diet on this account, as its health benefits outweigh the risk of exposure to pesticides.
Research carried out inFinlandsuggests the compounds may themselves encourage obesity, which is a major factor in the development of diabetes. Riikka Airaksinen of the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare led the study involving 2,000 mature adults and reported that just over 15% were Type 2 diabetics, and that those with levels of organochlorine pesticides in the top 10% were twice as likely to have diabetes as those in the bottom 10% if they were overweight or obese.
Although he pointed out that the study does not prove a link between the chemicals and diabetes as such, previous researches have shown that pollutant levels in the blood can predict the risk of diabetes in later life and that they interfere with hormone function, including insulin.
However, Airaksinen reported that a study of Finnish fishermen who ate a large proportion of fish in their diet, showed they had better longevity, despite the pollutant risk from oily fish.