Study Finds Insecticides Could Increase Risk of Diabetes

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By Gillie Houston Posted January 20, 2017

Chemicals commonly found in garden products could lead to an increased diabetes risk.

The next time you're spraying down your garden to prevent pests, you might want to take a second look at the mix's ingredients. Researchers at the University of Buffalo have found that chemicals commonly found in garden products and insecticides impact melatonin in the body, which could lead to an increased diabetes risk.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, suggests that the synthetic chemicals contained in these products bind to the receptors that direct the body's biological clock, interrupting circadian rhythms. According to Science Daily, disruptions in these rhythms can increase the risk of a number of metabolic diseases, including diabetes.

The two controversial chemicals included in the study are carbofuran, a toxic insecticide which was banned from use on food crops for human consumption in 2009, and carbaryl, one of the most widely used insecticides in the U.S., despite being outlawed in several countries. While previous research has shown that these chemicals can affect the human body, never before has research pointed to a direct impact on melatonin.

"This is the first report demonstrating how environmental chemicals found in household products interact with human melatonin receptors. No one was thinking that the melatonin system was affected by these compounds, but that's what our research shows," says senior author of the study Margarita L. Dubocovich, a SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

According to Marina Popevska-Gorevski, scientist, co-author of the study and one of the world's leading authorities on melatonin, "both insecticides are structurally similar to melatonin and that both showed affinity for the melatonin... that can potentially affect glucose homeostatis and insulin secretion." This impact on glucose and insulin could significantly raise the risk of metabolic disease.

"By directly interacting with melatonin receptors in the brain and peripheral tissues, environmental chemicals, such as carbaryl, may disrupt key physiological processes leading to misaligned circadian rhythms, sleep patterns, and altered metabolic functions increasing the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes," says Dubocovich.

In light of the research, the scientists behind the study suggest that new environmental assessments need to be made on each of these chemicals with the impact on circadian activity in mind. Due to melatonin's ability to impact human health in a variety of ways, from sleep disorders to drug addiction, Dubocovich says that new federal regulations on these chemicals need to be considered. And, as for personal usage, a few extra bugs in the garden might be worth it for some healthful peace-of-mind.

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