Pollution link to diabetes

Links between the levels of pollutants typically found in oily fish and pesticides and the chances of suffering diabetes have been explored by Korean and American scientists.

Researchers from the universities of Kyungpook and Minnesota looked at levels of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and the prevalence of diabetes in American populations and concluded that where one was high, the other was also likely to be.

Further investigation suggested that certain kinds of POP, in particular organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), could well be associated with type 2 diabetes as they seemed to make the body resistant to insulin.

As well as being used to treat diabetes sufferers, insulin is a naturally occurring hormone which regulates the levels of sugar in the blood.

If the chemical pollutants do indeed stop it from functioning as it should, it stands to reason that they increase the risk of diabetes.

But the research is not conclusive in this respect and, whilst raising an interesting possibility, does not prove a causal link between high levels of POP contamination and diabetes.

Though it demonstrates that, statistically, diabetes sufferers are likely to have higher levels of these pollutants in their bodies than the rest of the population, the research does not prove that the pollutants are causing the condition.

The scientists acknowledge in their paper that, as POPs are stored in fatty tissue, it is possible that being obese, an established risk factor, simply means more of the chemicals are likely to accumulate in the system.

In the animal kingdom, creatures at the top of the food chain with large reserves of fatty tissue such as polar bears and carnivorous whales tend to top the charts when it comes to levels of these particular families of chemicals in their bodies.

Sam Bond

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