Long-term exposure to arsenic increases your risk of diabetes

According to the alarming results of a report, it may be time to double-check the quality of your water supply.

The findings have revealed that long-term exposure to arsenic “interferes with insulin secretion in the pancreas, which may increase the risk of diabetes.”

The report was published in the American Journal of Physiology—Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

Even though arsenic occurs naturally in small amounts in plants, soil, and water, chronic exposure to higher levels of environmental arsenic has been connected to various health problems. Individuals exposed to arsenic may develop cancer and heart disease. Additionally, ingesting large doses of the element may be deadly. (Related: Arsenic in Water at EPA Approved Standards Linked to Heart Disease.)

At least millions of people worldwide, including in the U.S., may be exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic contamination in their water supply, according to the World Health Organization.

The researchers who spearheaded the study warned that even if sub-toxic levels of arsenic aren’t fatal, they can still endanger our health. They added that it is unwise to ignore the potential metabolic risk imposed by arsenic.

For the study, the research team observed male mice exposed to sub-toxic levels of arsenic. This exposure to the element mimicked chronic exposure to arsenic-contaminated drinking water. Compared to the control group, the arsenic-exposed mice had higher blood glucose levels caused by reduced insulin secretion during the early phases of a glucose tolerance test.

Insulin is a crucial hormone that transports glucose out of the blood and into body tissues. If an individual is unable to produce insulin, they have a high risk of developing diabetes.

Even if the subjects released reduced levels of insulin following exposure to arsenic, the researchers were unable to determine notable changes in the inflammation of the pancreas or the number of beta cells, or insulin-producing cells, in the pancreas that are linked with the development of diabetes.

In patients with Type 1 diabetes, insulin production is limited since beta cells are destroyed. But the researchers noted that arsenic causes glucose intolerance when it disrupts beta-cell function that “alters normal stimulus–secretion coupling.”

The team of researchers noted that looking into how arsenic influences the signaling for insulin secretion is crucial to determining effective strategies that can help minimize the risk of developing diabetes.

The study findings also imply that arsenic-induced diabetes risk can still be reversed if policies to lower environmental exposure are immediately put into action.

Tips for limiting exposure to arsenic

Follow the tips below to limit your family’s exposure to arsenic:

  • Drink bottled water – If you’re traveling, drink bottled water. Don’t risk exposure to arsenic by consuming unfiltered tap water.
  • Drink filtered water – Since groundwater is the most common cause of arsenic poisoning, you can limit exposure by only drinking clean and filtered water. When preparing food, use clean water as well.
  • Exercise caution when working in industries that use arsenic – Drink your own water from home and wear a face mask to reduce accidental arsenic inhalation.
  • Test your water – If your home is not on a public water system, have your water tested for arsenic and lead. You can find a certified lab by contacting your local health department or calling the Federal Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791. If you are on public water, consult your municipal water report for arsenic levels.

You can read more articles about harmful chemicals and how to avoid them at Chemicals.news.

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