New study links diabetes to the hidden amounts of mercury in processed foods
If you thought the lead found in dog treats was bad, wait till you find out what’s in the processed food you eat.
Big Island of Hawai'i, US —The epidemic of type-2 diabetes in the United States (U.S.) may be linked to the inorganic mercury exposure from consumption of processed foods found in the typical American diet according to a new study released today in Clinical Epigenetics. The study explores how inorganic mercury levels rise with fasting sugar or glucose levels. Based on two sets of data, the researchers determined a connection between blood inorganic mercury levels and fasting glucose.
One data set was obtained from a clinical trial conducted in Montana at the Fort Peck Community College in collaboration with the Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute (FIHRI). During the trial, one group of students participated in a ten week online nutrition intervention course with another group of community members participating in a support group to eliminate corn sweeteners from their diet. The clinical trial lasted ten weeks. The students who completed the online intervention course significantly reduced their intake of processed foods while increasing their consumption of whole and organic foods. At the end of the trial, the online group had significantly decreased their fasting glucose levels and had lower blood inorganic mercury levels compared to the participants in the support group who only tried to eliminate corn sweeteners from their diet. There appeared to be a connection between inorganic mercury and glucose levels in the blood samples collected from the participants in the trial.
The researchers then examined data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The NHANES data is considered the gold standard. Blood samples are collected annually from Americans across the country and then analyzed by CDC to determine the health status of Americans by looking at their fasting glucose, cholesterol and toxic substance exposure levels. When the Fort Peck collaborators analyzed the inorganic mercury and glucose results of the 16,232 blood samples collected by CDC, they found a direct association between inorganic blood mercury and fasting glucose levels. What this means is the higher the consumer’s inorganic blood mercury level, the higher their fasting glucose level and the more likely they are to become diabetic over time if they do not make dietary changes such as reducing their consumption of processed foods. Surprisingly there was no association between organic blood mercury levels and fasting glucose so the mercury exposure from fish consumption does not appear to play a role in the development of type-2 diabetes. At FIHRI’s request, Dan Laks, a researcher at UCLA conducted the statistical analysis.
Mercury exposure has previously been identified as a factor in the development of insulin resistance and diabetes by other researchers including Dr. He and his colleague who published an article in Diabetes Care in 2013. He and his team, however, did not differentiate between inorganic and organic mercury species or try to determine the source of mercury exposure.
In this study, the mercury species were determined by FIHRI volunteer researcher Dr. Skip Kingston who analyzed the Fort Peck blood samples at his Duquesne University laboratory. “To better address the explosion of type-2 diabetes, it’s critical we consider which mercury species is involved in the development of insulin resistance and the source of this mercury exposure,” said Dr. Steven Gilbert, a study co-author and toxicologist at the Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders.
Commander (ret.) Renee Dufault (U.S. Public Health Service), the Principal Investigator and study’s lead author, used the innovative scientific approach called macroepigentics to pinpoint the role of inorganic mercury exposure and other dietary factors in the development of type-2 diabetes. In taking a “macroepigenetics approach,” researchers consider how factors of nutrition, environment and genetic makeup interact and contribute to the eventual development of a particular health outcome. Inorganic mercury, for example, has been found in a previous study to reduce the activity of the GLUT4 gene which is responsible for maintaining glucose homeostasis.
Dufault retired early from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to publish the findings of mercury in high fructose corn syrup with collaborators a number of years ago. “Inorganic mercury exposure may occur from the consumption of heavily processed foods such as those made with chlorinated flour, sodium chemicals manufactured with mercury cell chlor-alkali products or food ingredients derived from corn starch,” said Renee Dufault, founder of FIHRI. The international food safety standards allow up to 1 part inorganic mercury per million parts food ingredient. There are several food ingredients that may contain up to 1 ppm inorganic mercury. The FDA and other food safety agencies do not consider the cumulative or long term effects of the overall inorganic mercury exposure people may have as a result of their processed food consumption.
“With type-2 diabetes skyrocketing, we need a health education system that promotes the reduced consumption of processed foods and increased consumption of whole, unadulterated foods”, said Dr. Schnoll, a nutrition researcher at Brooklyn College and FIHRI volunteer. As part of the current study, the authors found a 9,457% increase in the consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the United States between 1970 and 2010. In a separate study published in 2012, Teixeira and his research team reported that a high fructose diet can increase intestinal permeability in obesity creating a mechanism for toxicants like inorganic mercury to enter the bloodstream. Several studies have already been published on the association between HFCS consumption and obesity.
Fasting glucose or sugar levels are associated with blood inorganic mercury. The current study sought to determine how environmental and dietary factors, like processed food consumption, might combine to contribute to the development of type-2 diabetes.
Consumption of HFCS, for example, is linked to the dietary loss of zinc, which interferes with the elimination of heavy metals from the body. Many heavy metals like mercury and arsenic are potent toxins that affect glucose homeostasis and create conditions of oxidative stress which may lead to changes in gene function.
HFCS consumption can also impact levels of other minerals, including calcium. Calcium is needed by the body to support PON1 gene expression which produces an enzyme that breaks down organophosphate pesticides. Reductions in PON1 gene activity are associated with insulin resistance and obesity.
Community members who participated in the support group to eliminate corn sweeteners from their diet significantly reduced their weight and body mass index. Consumption of corn sweeteners may be a risk factor in the development of obesity.
“Rather than being independent sources of risk, factors like nutrition and exposure to toxic chemicals are cumulative and synergistic in their potential to disrupt glucose homeostasis,” said Renee Dufault, a former FDA toxicologist and whistleblower. “These epigenetic effects can also be transmitted across generations. As type-2 diabetes prevalence continues to climb it is imperative to incorporate this new epigenetic perspective into prevention, diagnosis and treatment strategies.”
The alternative online nutrition intervention course emphasizing the role food ingredients and toxic substances play in gene modulation and the development of diseases administered in this study resulted in significant dietary improvements in the students who completed the course. These dietary changes led to reductions in risk factors associated with type-2 diabetes, including blood inorganic mercury and fasting glucose levels. “The design and content of the macroepigenetics nutrition intervention course enabled our students to make the dietary changes they needed to improve their health status,” said Zara Berg, a study co-author and professor at Fort Peck Community College.
The authors of this study have given insight into the complex interplay between some of the factors that lead to the development of type-2 diabetes. In order to curb the epidemic of type-2 diabetes in the U. S. continued analysis of how processed food consumption may contribute to the body burden of toxic substances and how these environmental toxicants impact gene function must be key areas of research moving forward.
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The Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute (FIHRI) is a non-profit organization devoted entirely to food ingredient safety, education, and research. foodingredient.info
Study links autism with industrial food, environment
New research models real-world exposures to environmental causes of autism
Ocean View —The epidemic of autism in children in the United States (U.S.) may be linked to the typical American diet according to a new study released today in Clinical Epigenetics. The study explores how mineral deficiencies, affected by dietary factors like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), could affect how the human body rids itself of common toxic chemicals like mercury and pesticides.
The release comes on the heels of a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that estimates the average rate of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among eight year olds is now 1 in 88, representing a 78 percent increase between 2002 and 2008. Among boys, the rate is nearly five times the prevalence found in girls.
“To better address the explosion of autism, it’s critical we consider how unhealthy diets interfere with the body’s ability to eliminate toxic chemicals, and ultimately our risk for developing long-term health problems like autism.” said Dr. David Wallinga, a study co-author and physician at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).
Commander (ret.) Renee Dufault (U.S. Public Health Service), the study’s lead author and a former Food and Drug Administration toxicologist, developed an innovative scientific approach to pinpoint the subtle side effects of HFCS consumption and other dietary factors on the human body and how they relate to chronic disorders. The model, called “macroepigenetics,” allows researchers to consider how factors of nutrition, environment and genetic makeup interact and contribute to the eventual development of a particular health outcome.“With autism rates skyrocketing, our public educational system is under extreme stress”, said Dufault, who is also a licensed special education teacher and founder of the Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute (FIHRI). As part of the current study, the authors found a 91 percent increase in the number of children with autism receiving special educational services in the United States between 2005 and 2010.
Autism and related disorders affect brain development. The current study sought to determine how environmental and dietary factors, like HFCS consumption, might combine to contribute to the disorder.
Consumption of HFCS, for example, is linked to the dietary loss of zinc, which interferes with the elimination of heavy metals from the body. Many heavy metals like mercury, arsenic and cadmium are potent toxins that affect brain development.
HFCS consumption can also impact levels of other minerals, including calcium. Loss of this beneficial mineral further exacerbates the detrimental effects of exposure to lead on brain development in fetuses and children.
Inadequate levels of calcium can also impair the body’s ability to rid itself of organophosphates, a class of pesticides recognized as especially toxic to the young developing brain by scientists and the EPA.
“Rather than being independent sources of risk, factors like nutrition and exposure to toxic chemicals are cumulative and synergistic in their potential to disrupt normal development,” said Dr. Richard Deth, a professor of Pharmacology at Northeastern University and a co-author of the study. “These epigenetic effects can also be transmitted across generations. As autism rates continue to climb it is imperative to incorporate this new epigenetic perspective into prevention, diagnosis and treatment strategies.”
The picture of how and why a child develops autism is a complicated one influenced by many different factors. The authors of this study have given insight into the complex interplay between these factors that lead to the development of this debilitating neurodevelopmental disorder. In order to curb the epidemic of autism in the U. S. continued analysis of how the industrialized food system and exposure to environmental toxins impact ASD must be key areas of research moving forward. Click here to access the paper in its entirety, http://www.clinicalepigeneticsjournal.com/content/4/1/6/abstract
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The Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute (FIHRI)is a non-profit organization devoted entirely to food ingredient safety, education, and research. foodingredient.info
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, iatp.org, works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems. iatp.org
Additional study authors:
Raquel Crider, PhD
Roseanne Schnoll, PhD
Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences
Brooklyn College of City University of New York
Walter J Lukiw, BS, MS, PhD
LSU Neuroscience Center and Department of Ophthalmology