Are certain chemicals found in the environment contributing to the type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes metabolic syndrome epidemics?
I recently concluded a post about the persistent impact of currently illegal chemical compounds on human health by referring to the ongoing research studying the effect of legal chemicals on the development of obesity. The studies in this area generally show that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in the environment are associated with an increase in body size depending on the type of chemical, one’s exposure level, and gender. These chemical compounds have therefore been labeled “obesogens.” Recent studies suggest that bisphenol A and phthalates are obesogens. Bisphenol A is still common in plastic products, and prevalent in the environment, although some phthalates have been phased out.
These compounds have been implicated in the expanding epidemic of diseases related to the medical conditions associated with metabolic syndrome: obesity, pre-diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. These medical problems are typically attributed to poor nutrition, eating too much, and exercise too little, but many believe our external chemical environment is also playing a role.
This has been explained via the environmental obesogen hypothesis which proposes that exposure to a toxic chemical burden is superimposed on the above noted medical conditions to initiate or exacerbate the development of obesity and its associated health consequences.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is widely used in plastic packaging for food and beverages. Numerous studies have demonstrated that BPA can alter endocrine function in animals, yet human studies remain limited.
One study looked at bisphenol a urine concentrations and their impact on human hormane levels. The study concluded higher BPA exposure may be associated with endocrine changes in men.
One target of BPA action is body fat—abdominal fat in particular. As I have written about in the past, abdominal visceral fat is a biologically active organ and is a source of hormone-like compounds and chronic inflammation. Adiponectin is one of these hormone-like substances, or adipokines, that is secreted from fat cells. Studies have shown that adiponectin is inversely related to weight management and diabetes. In other words, as adiponectin levels are reduced the likelihood of diabetes and weight gain are increased. BPA, at environmentally relevant doses, inhibits adiponectin secretion and stimulates the release of inflammatory adipokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) from human adipose tissue making it a prime potential instigator of metabolic syndrome.
Stay tuned to Nutrientology for more posts on this interesting topic.