Chemical exposure may increase type 2 diabetes and obesity risk

Researchers are increasingly coming to the conclusion that environmental chemicals to which nearly everyone is exposed may have a role in increasing the odds of developing type 2 diabetes. Several recent studies have shown that environmental toxins may be a major risk factor for the condition.

A team of scientists from the National Toxicology Program recently summarized these findings at a conference for researchers. They examined previous studies into the diabetes and obesity risks associated with arsenic, cadmium, bisphenol A, other ingredients in plastics, pesticides and components of cigarette smoke.

The team reported that there appears to be a strong association between these chemicals and type 2 diabetes risk, according to Reuters. The link between smoking while pregnant and a child's chances of developing the condition is particularly prominent, according to Michael Gallo, who led the conference.

He said that most children who are born to mothers who smoked while pregnant are born underweight. This can spark a series of metabolic changes that usually lead to obesity and an increased diabetes risk.

While the data show a strong correlation between environmental exposure to the chemicals studied, researchers were careful to point out that roughly 70 percent of all type 2 diabetes cases are caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. Environmental exposure may be more of a compounding factor rather than a cause.

In recent years, there has been a wave of indications that certain commonly used chemicals may be unsafe and cause serious metabolic harm. For example, a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that individuals with the highest concentrations of bisphenol A in their urine were 1.4 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
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