Parents with children still living at home face an astonishing trend: One in three children born in the United States in the year 2000 are projected to develop type 2 diabetes. If your child is from an African American or Hispanic background, the odds increase to 50 percent. While logic tells us healthy doses of exercise and vegetables will reverse the trend, the truth about type 2 diabetes is a bit more complicated.
Without question, Americans should exercise more, eat less junk, consume more vegetables and lose weight. However, blaming obesity for the diabetes epidemic is not quite fair. New scientific studies show environmental toxins to be a more important factor than fat in the development of type 2 diabetes. This is most clearly illustrated in Africa and Asia, where the diabetes rates have risen even more rapidly than the United States despite a large vegetarian population. These countries require aggressive pesticide use to grow crops in harsh geographical conditions for their starving populations.
What does fat have to do with it?
In 2006, Lee, et al. were the first group of researchers to uncover the association between organic pollutants, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Here's what they found:
- People with the highest blood levels of organic pollutants were almost 38 times more likely to have diabetes.
- People in the lowest organic pollutant group were no more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than thin people, despite their size.
- Those with measurable blood levels of organic pollutants and obesity showed a much greater risk of diabetes.
Therefore, a thin person exposed to organic pollutants is at a greater risk to develop type 2 diabetes than an overweight person with no organic pollutant exposure. Researchers are excited about these findings because it provides the world with a way to slow the diabetes epidemic. Organic pollutants are ubiquitous in our world, and they preferentially deposit themselves in fat. Once in fat deposits, the toxins are prevented from entering the blood stream to be processed and removed by the body. More importantly, while they hide in fat, they modulate cells and increase their harmful effects on the body. Weight loss may liberate the toxins from the stored fat deposits, allowing the toxins to be removed from the body and permitting the person to return to a normal state. Animal studies are now underway exploring the specific biochemical mechanism of organic pollutants, dyslipidemia, inflammation and insulin-glucose regulation.
The sudden rise in epidemic rates of type 2 diabetes is now being uncovered, and interventions targeted at cleaning the environment will show benefit for future generations.