Certain environmental pollutants linked to obesity, diabetes

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When it comes to obesity, is environment stronger than will?

The question takes on a new meaning given a recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Researchers found that a type of pollutant was linked to certain metabolic complications associated with obesity, suggesting that there may be ways to address prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of obesity-related illnesses by taking into account exposure to pollutants.

"Recently, persistent organic pollutants have been found to accelerate the development of prediabetes and obesity in mice, thereby mimicking the unfavorable cardiometabolic profile characteristic of certain obese individuals," said Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret, M.D., Ph.D., endocrinologist and director of the metabolic diseases research unit at the IRCM. "As a result, the aim of our study was to test whether metabolically healthy but obese individuals have lower circulating levels of POPs than obese individuals with cardiometabolic complications."

What they found is that metabolically healthy but obese individuals seem to be relatively protected from these types of complications, which sparked the team's further interest in why this phenomenon occurs.

POP exposure correlated with disease

POPs are human-made chemicals used in growing crops and in manufacturing. Exposure to POPs happens mainly through the environment and the consumption of foods like fish, meat and dairy, said Jérôme Ruzzin, Ph.D., expert in the field of research on POPs. An important characteristic of POPs is that they accumulate in the body's fatty tissues. Once stored in cells, they are hard to eliminate and can cause reproductive and metabolic problems, Ruzzin said.

The IRCM researchers studied 76 obese women of similar age, body mass index and fat mass index, looking at the concentration of POPs in their bodies as well as cardiometabolic risk factors. They found that women with cardiometabolic complications had higher concentrations of 12 specific POPs.

"Remarkably, close to 70 percent of the detectable POPs were significantly higher in individuals with cardiometabolic complications compared to metabolically healthy but obese subjects," said Marie-Soleil Gauthier, Ph.D., co-first author of the study and research associate at the IRCM. "Our study confirms that the two groups have distinct POP profiles, and that metabolically healthy but obese individuals have significantly lower circulating levels of various classes of POPs than patients with complications."

More research needed

Since POPs are abundant and have the ability to resist environmental degradation, more research on how they affect human health would be beneficial, especially in areas like diabetes and heart health, the researchers noted.

Several studies have confirmed that chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, which are found in many plastic products, water supplies, and foods, can also disrupt metabolism.

"Although this study does not show a causal link, it suggests that pollutants found abundantly in our environment could promote the development of cardiometabolic diseases like diabetes," concluded Rabasa-Lhoret. "If future studies confirm this increased risk, such observations could have a significant impact on public health decisions because we will need to dramatically reduce our exposure to these pollutants."

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 
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