Indiana Daily Student

Mercury exposure may cause type-2 diabetes

Higher levels of mercury exposure at a young age increase the chances of developing type-2 diabetes by 65 percent, according to a new study led by IU professor Ka He.

He, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the IU School of Public Health, said exposure to mercury often comes from fish and other sea creatures that humans typically eat.

“Fish has some nutrients, like Omega-3 acids and proteins,” He said. “On the other hand, though, fish contains contaminants. When I study fish, we have to consider the contaminants in fish.”

The study, which drew its results from 3,875 participants, discovered a link between mercury levels and type-2 diabetes risks. Both women and men were tested.
The interesting part of the study, though, was how the researchers tested the participants.

“What we did is we collected the toenails of the participants and analyzed the mercury levels in them,” He said.

He explained that, during time, mercury will accumulate. By testing and analyzing one’s toenail, they can see how much mercury the participant has been exposed to.

The researchers also tested participants’ blood, measuring glucose and insulin levels.
The study, which was published in the online journal Diabetes Care, found that the participants with the highest levels of mercury also tended to live healthier lifestyles than the other participants. These participants maintained lower body mass indexes and exercised more frequently, but they also ate more fish.

“It is likely that the overall health impact of fish consumption may reflect the interactions of nutrients and contaminants in fish,” He and the authors concluded in the study. “Thus, studying any of these nutrients and contaminants such as mercury should consider confounding from other components in fish.”

— John Bauernfeind

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