New Study Links Long Banned DDT to Diabetes


A recently published study suggests that exposure to environmental contaminants – namely, DDT – may increase risk of diabetes. Most of the wisdom on diabetes has focused on diet, exercise, weight, etc. Environmental contaminants haven’t been a big focus, although recent studies have started to show that a correlation may exist.

This study, focusing on a group of Great Lakes fisherman with blood samples taken before exposure and the onset of diabetes, showed “consistent, dose-relationship associations with DDE” with diabetes. DDE is a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT. DDT, although banned more than 35 years ago, is still found in our environment and is present in most of us.

Diabetes affectsw the body’s ability to produce or use insulin. Insulin, a hormone, regulates how glucose, the body’s fuel, enters cells. About 8% of the population has diabetes. And, according to the American Diabetes Association, that population grew by more than 13% from 2005 to 2007.

If diabetes has a link to environmental contaminants, then it would mean a shift in treatment and prevention. That doesn’t mean that you can abandon eating right and exercise, but it may mean that other factors should be considered.

This isn’t the first study to find some evidence. In a study of more than 2,000 adults, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found people with the highest levels of six pollutants were 38 times more likely to have diabetes than those with the lowest exposure. Also, Vietnam veterans exposed to the dioxin-laced defoliant Agent Orange were significantly more likely than average to become diabetic, prompting the government to offer compensation to diabetic veterans.

This study was designed to evaluate two criticisms of prior studies. The study discredited the hypothesis that pollutants like DDE only appear to be potential causes of the disease because diabetics more slowly break down the chemicals, and therefore carry more of them. This study showed no difference in DDE metabolism rates between diabetics and non-diabetics.

Also, this paper showed exposure occurred before diabetes, not after.

Smart Mama’s Simple Step to Reduce Exposure:  If you want to reduce your exposure to DDT, one of the easiest things you can do is take off your shoes when you come home. We track long banned pollutants into our homes on our shoes.

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