WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA. The growing incidence of diabetes worldwide suggests that the disorder may have an environment component. The heavy metal cadmium is known to cause pancreatic cancer. Because pancreatic cancer and type 2 diabetes are known to be associated it is clearly a possibility that cadmium may also be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine recently set out to look for a connection. They analyzed urine samples from 8,722 adults over the age of 40 years who were participants in the NHANES III (1988-1994) cross-sectional health survey. Urine concentration of cadmium (microgram/gram of creatinine) has previously been shown to be a direct indicator of the body burden of cadmium. The analysis results were split into three groups: 0 - 0.99 mcg/g creatinine, 1 - 1.99, and 2.0 or greater. The study participants also underwent fasting glucose testing and were classified as having impaired glucose tolerance if their level was less than 126 mg/dL but greater than 110 mg/dL and as having diabetes if their level was above 126 mg/dL.
The researchers found that participants with a urinary cadmium level of 1 – 1.99 mcg/g creatinine had a 48%
greater incidence of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and a 24% greater incidence of diabetes than did
participants with a cadmium level between 0 – 0.99 mcg/g creatinine (referent level). Participants with
cadmium levels of 2.0 mcg/g creatinine or higher had a 105% increased incidence of IGT and a 45%
increased incidence of diabetes when compared to referent level. The researchers conclude that exposure
to cadmium (through diet or cigarette smoking) increases the risk of IGT and diabetes.