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Study Links Exposure to Environmental Pollutants to Obesity, Diabetes

ALEXANDRIA, VA -- (Marketwired) -- 06/24/14 -- Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), a group of chemicals resistant to biodegradation and ubiquitous in the environment, may be contributing to the pandemics of type 2 diabetes and obesity, according to a study being published in the July issue of Diabetes Care ®.

Researchers in Belgium examined the relationship between body levels of two POPs (PCBs and DDE, man-made, toxic chemicals that persist in the environment and in food) and detailed markers of glucose metabolism and body composition. They found higher levels of POPs in participants who were obese, particularly in those with high visceral (intra-abdominal) fat mass -- the type of central adiposity that is strongly linked to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, they detected a positive correlation between high blood glucose levels and total body levels of POPs. This link was significant, even when statistically correcting for known risk factors, such as body mass index, age, family history of diabetes and physical activity level.

"There is growing evidence that exposure to POPs can be considered as an additional risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus," wrote Eveline Dirinck, MD, a PhD research assistant in the Department of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Metabolic Diseases at Universitair Ziekenhuis Antwerpen, Belgium, and one of the authors of the study.

"The link between POP levels and abnormal glucose tolerance further sustains the theory that environmentally relevant levels of POPs may exert a diabetogenic effect. Furthermore, the consistent positive association between POP levels and visceral adiposity is highly relevant, given the biologically detrimental effect of this fat compartment," the researchers concluded.

A previous study of Swedish seniors found that elevated levels of POPs were predictive for the development of type 2 diabetes.

To reach lead author Professor Luc Van Gaal, MD, PhD, Department of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Metabolic Diseases, Antwerp University Hospital, Belgium, email: [email protected].

The American Diabetes Association is leading the fight to Stop Diabetes® and its deadly consequences and fighting for those affected by diabetes. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, our mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. For more information please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit www.diabetes.org. Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.

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