Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that have been associated with the risk of diabetes for a long time now. There is now scientific evidence to support the link between high PCB exposure and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. There is, however, not enough evidence on whether PCB exposure levels of the general population is likely to lead to type 1 or 2 diabetes.
[Read: Risk Factors for Diabetes]
What the Research Says
The researchers at the National Taiwan University compared the occurrence of type 2 diabetes among 378 Taiwanese women who had been exposed to PCB-contaminated cooking oil since 1970s with 370 non-exposed women. After 24 years, it was found that the contaminated oil increased the risk of diabetes by two-folds in the exposed women. Moreover, the women who had been exposed to the highest PCB levels were at five times the risk of developing diabetes than the non-exposed group of women.
Another study at the Suny Upstate Medical University found evidence on the correlation between polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the risk of diabetes. They examined the PCB blood levels of residents of Anniston (Ala), where a Monsanto factory had illegally dumped PCBs in open landfills during 1970s. The chemical spread throughout the human community and thereafter to pigs, cows and vegetables. It was found that the people living close to the plant increased their risk of diabetes by four times.
A study conducted at the University of Albany found a link between PCB concentrations in blood and elevated risk of diabetes, decreased cognitive / thyroid function, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
How PCBs Contributes to Diabetes
PCB exposure may lead to diabetes or make symptoms worse for a diabetic through changes in the body’s use of sugar. Continuous exposure of PCBs interferes with standard medical procedure to stabilise blood sugar levels in diabetics.
Diabetes is an auto-immune disorder, which is closely related to the thyroid and liver function. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may damage the pancreas, liver, immune and thyroid systems, subsequently leading to diabetes. The effects of PCBs, the researchers say, may vary from one gender to another.
There are over 200 different congeners of PCBs that act differently from one another, some last longer than others in the environment.
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