Can Chemicals Cause Diabetes?
In general, the risk factors for type 2 diabetes are pretty clear: A lack of exercise, a poor diet, genes, and ethnicity are the most serious determinants of the disease. But now that more than 29 million Americans have diabetes and 86 million more are prediabetic, researchers are also focusing on other factors that might increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes.
Some of the other culprits thought to be contributing to the diabetes epidemic are chemicals found in the environment and in products we use daily. Certain chemicals may directly increase the risk of the disease, while others may contribute to obesity, a serious risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. At this point, research on whether exposure to chemicals can lead to any or all types of diabetes is still in the very preliminary stages, and there's a lack of randomized controlled studies — the gold standard for medical research — indicating that the two are directly linked. Here’s what we know now.
The Relationship Between Chemicals and Diabetes
“There is an association between some chemicals in the environment and diabetes,” says Kristina Thayer, PhD, director of the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) division of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. “What we don’t know is whether it’s causal.” That means that while a number of studies might link a higher level of certain chemicals to a greater likelihood of developing diabetes, it’s not yet clear whether that chemical exposure preceded the diabetes. More research is nee Continue reading