International Health News

Mercury exposure in young adults and future diabetes

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA. An interesting study has just reported where the mercury load status (via toenail analysis) in young adults 20-32 was determined and the incidence of diabetes and pancreatic beta-cell function examined over a subsequent period of 18 years. When the highest vs. the lowest quintiles of initial mercury load were compared, those in the highest had a 65% increase of incident diabetes. A decrease in beta-cell function also correlated with increasing mercury load. This association was only evident after adjustment for demographic, major lifestyle and dietary factors, particularly weight and intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium, both of which are protective.

The authors comment that these results are consistent with a number of experimental studies with both cell cultures and animals, but that human data is sparse and contradictory and there is no relevant human data available from Western countries. However, several studies from Taiwan, Turkey and Mexico found positive associations that supported results found in this study.

It is also well established that in general there is an association between heavy metal loads and both pancreatic islet function and the development of diabetes. A recent review discussed arsenic, cadmium, mercury and nickel, although the latter lacked human studies.

He K, Xun P, Liu K, Morris S, Reis J, Guallar E. Mercury Exposure in Young Adulthood and Incidence of Diabetes Later in Life: The CARDIA trace element study. Diabetes Care 2013 February 19
Chen YW, Yang CY, Huang CF, Hung DZ, Leung YM, Liu SH. Heavy metals, islet function and diabetes development. Islets 2009 November;1(3):169-76

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