Dr. Rodier's "Research Perspectives": Diabetes and Environmental Toxins
Dr. Rodier's "Research Perspectives": Diabetes and Environmental Toxins

Thoughts from a leading integrative physician and medical insider


Featured Article for Discussion

“A Strong Dose-Response Relation Between Serum Concentrations of Persistent Organic Pollutants and Diabetes”

Diabetes Care 29:1631-1644, 2006

Today’s featured article from Diabetes Care is shocking, so sit down while you read the conclusion: chemicals in the environment are making us both more obese and more diabetic!

Here’s how it works. Our environment is loaded with toxins that we ingest, inhale, and take in through our skin every day. However, the main source of “persistent organic pollutants” in humans is through dietary fats, primarily animal in origin.

Once in our body, these fat-soluble chemicals, which are highly resistant to degradation, get stored in our own fat. As we carry more fat, more toxins get stored and become available to create metabolic disruptions.

Metabolic disruptions then create all sorts of havoc, such as insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes. You get the picture.

It’s a vicious cycle of increasing fat, toxic overload, and metabolic maladies. Shoot me, won’t you!

Granted, our genes may be contributors (and we may be making our jeans too tight by not pushing off the table soon enough). Still, the role of toxins in promoting obesity is not good news for those of us struggling with our waist lines.

The toxins implicated are hard-to-spell but common industrial chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls, dichlorophenyldichloroethylene from DDT/DDE, trans-nonachlor, hexa chlorobenzene, hexachlorociclohexanes, phthalates, etc.

These toxins, abundant in our environment, are all commonly found in humans. In fact, National Geographic did a feature on the “chemicals within us” in October 2006 (see their interactive charts in “Our Toxic Homes” for more information).

More and more studies are analyzing the effect of “persistent organic pollutants” (POPs) on humans, with my featured article generating both scholarly interest and controversy.

First author Dae-Hee Lee (an MD/PhD in preventive medicine in Korea) and his team of researchers analyzed fasting plasma glucose concentrations and found the prevalence of diabetes to be five times higher in groups with higher concentrations of toxins.

They also found that diabetes doubled and tripled in the upper percentiles of exposure to DDE and other toxic chemicals.

The controversy surrounds a ground-breaking statement in Lee’s article, specifically:

“Another scientifically interesting finding was that obesity did not increase the prevalence of diabetes among subjects with nondetectable levels of POPs.”

In The Lancet, author Miquel Porta references Lee’s research and points out that:

“This finding might imply that virtually all the risk of diabetes conferred by obesity is attributable to persistent organic pollutants, and that obesity is only a vehicle for such chemicals. This possibility is shocking.”

Porta went on to conclude:

“The causal role of toxins in diabetes is more likely to be contributory and indirect, i.e., through immunosuppressant, non-genotoxic, perhaps epigenetic mechanisms.”

Too bad Porta’s conclusions ignore cutting-edge research showing that the main problems creating disease are related to metabolomics, cellular communication, and cellular energy deficits.

Put more simply, as I see it, the root cause of most disease is cellular “TOIL” – my little acronym for strain from Toxins, Oxidation, Inflammation, and Lack of nutrients.

Without a doubt, toxins in our bodies can cause massive cell membrane dysfunction, which leads to a “failure to communicate.”

Porta doesn’t seem to understand that cell membrane dysfunction can lead to many other cell-to-cell communication problems (i.e., creating insulin resistance and also resistance to neurotransmitters, hormones, and immune system messengers).

You see, toxins correlated with diabetes also have been correlated with cancer, neurologic problems (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s) and many other hormonal problems, especially thyroid and adrenal dysfunction.

Hormonal problems can then lead directly to another vicious cycle -- of insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity.

What can you do? Avoid toxins as much as possible and consider these simple suggestions:

* Include n-acetylcysteine, milk thistle, whey, SAM-e and/or alpha lipoic acid in your supplement regimen to help your body produce glutathione, which is critical to liver detoxification.
* Improve your liver and bowel functions by including healthy doses of fiber, probiotics, and digestive enzymes each day.
* Maximize good nutrition with a diet high in antioxidants.
* If your health permits, take sauna baths and exercise to the point of a very good sweat, which will help you detoxify through the biggest organ in your body, your skin!

By making lifestyle and dietary changes, you will support your health for sure, and as an added benefit, you may be able to influence that old waist line!

In summary: Avoid environmental toxins whenever possible. Watch your dietary intake of toxins from animal fats. And, detoxify your system – regularly!

Dr. Rodier practices integrative medicine at the Pioneer Health Clinic just outside Salt Lake City, UT. He's an adjunct professor for the University of Utah's School of Medicine. Dr. Rodier offers nutritional consultations via phone.

Copyright 2005 Our Health Co-op, Inc. All rights reserved.
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