Possible Link Between Environmental Pollution And Type 2 Diabetes


Cambridge scientists, Drs. Oliver Jones and Julian Griffin, believe a link between persistent organic pollutants (or POPs) in the environment and insulin resistance, may lead to type 2 diabetes.

“Of course correlation does not automatically imply causation,” says Dr. Jones. “But if there is indeed a link, the health implications could be tremendous. At present there is very limited information. Research into adult onset diabetes currently focuses on genetics and obesity; there has been almost no consideration for the possible influence of environmental factors such as pollution.”

What are POPs?

In the 1940s, POPs became popular pesticides along with DDT, but were blamed for harming wild birds,  animals, and possibly humans.  After their discontinuation, they remain in the environment, slowly biodegrading and eventually entering the food chain. Once in the body, POPs can persist in body fat for very long periods of time following exposure.

The POPs Link

In their research, Jones and Griffin reviewed other studies in this area and noted that one conducted by Dr D Lee, et al, demonstrated NO association between obese subjects and diabetes when they had low concentrations of POPs in their blood. In fact, thin people with high levels of POPs were more at risk for developing type 2 diabetes than obese individuals with low levels.

While the exact mechanism by which this link exists remains unknown, it bears further investigation, say Jones and Griffin. POPs may not be responsible for all cases of type 2 diabetes, but if a causal relationship can be found, new treatments for the disease may be possible.

The article by Jones and Griffin, “Environmental pollution and diabetes: A neglected relationship,” appears in the latest edition of the “Lancet.”

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