Diabetes mellitus characterized by hyperglycemia is an increasing worldwide health problem. It is largely classified into insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (type 1 diabetes) and noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes). The type 2 diabetes (T2D) makes up more than 90% of all diabetes cases. Established risk factors for T2D, such as genetics, diet and lifestyle, do not fully explain the increase in this disease. There is considerable interest in understanding the contribution of nontraditional risk factors to the diabetes epidemic, including environmental pollutants. Among these environmental pollutants, arsenic (As) exposure has been paid much attention as it is a ubiquitous toxic metalloid in the environment. Epidemiological studies carried out in Bangladesh, Taiwan, Mexico, and United States have shown a strong diabetogenic effect of arsenic exposure in human populations mainly through contaminated drinking water. Arsenic is toxic and a carcinogen but occurs naturally in the environment, most commonly in groundwater. It can also contaminate dietary sources, such as rice, grains, and certain fruit juices and, as such, is increasingly seen as a health concern.
In a new article published in Diabetes Care in November 2016 (Diabetes Care 2016 Nov; dc160810. http://dx.doi.org/10.2337/dc16-0810), Maria Grau Pérez, department of environmental health sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues found that relative changes in plasma arsenic and arsenic metabolites significantly increased the likelihood of having type 1 diabetes. Moreover, this association was, in part, moderated by plasma folate levels, which are involved in one-carbon metabolism and have previously been shown to influence arsenic metabolism. Their recently published research is the first to demonstrate such associations in children, although they have previously been observed in adults.
In their study, Dr. Perez and colleagues studied six hundred eighty-eight participants
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