7 Environmental Triggers for Diabetes You Need to Know

man looking shocked

According to the International Federation of Diabetes, the prevalence of diabetes is expected to increase from 415 million people worldwide in 2015 to 642 million by 2040.

man with diabetes

We know that type 2 diabetes is caused by a lack of exercise and a poor diet, but a growing body of research shows that there’s a bigger picture. Studies have shown links between a variety of environmental toxins and type 2 diabetes as well.

Here are seven toxins associated with diabetes that you’ll want to reduce exposure to.

1. Arsenic

Arsenic contaminates the drinking water of around 100 million people globally, and this toxic chemical is associated with insulin resistance and diabetes, according to the American Journal of Physiology.

arsenic water

Scientists conducted a study on mice and found that those exposed to sub-toxic levels of arsenic in drinking water for eight weeks had impaired glucose tolerance and alterations in eating patterns and energy metabolism.

The researchers concluded that arsenic exposure alters insulin secretion from beta cells in the pancreas and changes metabolic function.

2. Bisphenol A

More commonly known as BPA, bisphenol A is found in canned foods and drinks, polycarbonate water bottles, and cash register receipts. BPA acts on pancreatic cells and impairs the secretion of insulin and glucagon, which triggers an insulin-resistant state.

BPA water bottle

The best way to avoid BPA is to use glass or stainless steel containers for drinking and food storage as well as avoid handling cash register receipts whenever possible.

3. Polychlorinated biphenyls

Although officially banned in the U.S. in 1979, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, stay in the body long after exposure.

Found in products like oil-based paints, plastics, caulking, and thermal insulation materials, PCBs are associated with significant impairment of insulin and glucose tolerance, which, according to research, lasts for two weeks after exposure.

man caulking door

In mice, PCB exposure increased the concentrations of inflammatory cytokines, which are associated with insulin resistance.

4. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, known as PAHs, are produced when gas, coal, oil, tobacco, and garbage are burned.

The National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals shows that most people test positive for some level of PAH. A study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that high levels of PAHs are associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, partly due to increased oxidative stress and inflammation.

Cigarette smoke and grilled and charred meat are the most common sources of PAHs.

close up of man smoking

5. Phthalates

Phthalates are chemicals that are used to improve the durability and flexibility of plastic products.

In a recent study, scientists found phthalates in 99.6 percent of 1,504 human participants, and the concentrations were positively associated with not only type 2 diabetes but also high blood pressure and heart disease.

globe in plastic bag

To reduce phthalate exposure, look for phthalate-free cosmetics and skin care products, and avoid eating foods that are sold in plastic bags.

6. Mercury

Mercury has been shown to alter the function of pancreatic beta cells, inducing hyperglycemia, and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Mercury is released into the environment through activities like coal burning and gold mining, and it’s found in electrical switches, fluorescent light bulbs, and thermometers.

Some fish contain high levels of organic mercury, particularly large fish like bigeye tuna and king mackerel.

bluefin tuna sashimi

Herbal medicines made outside of the U.S. have also been found to contain high levels of mercury, so make sure your herbal supplements are made in America.

7. Pesticides

Pesticides are widely used across the globe and find their way into our bodies through the food chain.

tractor spraying pesticides

An analysis of 22 studies found a positive association between diabetes and increased pesticide exposure. To reduce your exposure to these chemicals, buy organic produce, especially apples, cherries, grapes, peaches, and spinach.

For those who are pre-diabetic or have already developed diabetes, reducing environmental exposures may help improve nerve damage symptoms.

Additionally, a supplement like Nerveology’s Nerve Support Complex can help protect your nerves against damage and reduce the pain and discomfort associated with peripheral neuropathy.



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