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Mercury exposure linked to diabetes risk

A new study warns that young adults who have higher levels of mercury in their systems may face a 65 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Recent findings published in the journal Diabetes Care highlight for the first time the link between mercury and diabetes in humans. These results are of considerable concern because eating fish and shellfish, normally recommended for its nutritional benefits, is the main source of methyl mercury in people.

As HEAL aims to raise awareness of the health risks of exposure to mercury and the need to reduce our exposure, these new findings are important to highlight. The results found that nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury but they also contain lean protein and other important nutrients such as magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids which could counter the effects of mercury.

In a new study, researchers collected data from 3,875 non-diabetic individuals between the age of 20 and 32 from 1987 to 2005. Mercury levels were measured in their toenails and they were tested for diabetes during this period.

Throughout the 18 year follow up period, 288 cases of diabetes were identified. After adjusting the data for other potential factors, such as age, sex, alcohol consumption and family history, the researchers found that higher mercury exposure was linked to an increased risk for developing diabetes, noting that those with the most exposure had a 65 percent increased risk of diabetes when compared to those with the lowest.

Originally posted on 10 May 2013

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


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