Arsenic and type 2 diabetes

By Ann Griswold • Published: January 5th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Arsenic has been blamed for numerous misfortunes over the years, including Napoleon’s death, Monet’s blindness and Van Gogh’s neurological disorders. Now, a new study links arsenic exposure in tap water to type two, or adult-onset, diabetes.

More than thirteen million Americans drink tap water that exceeds the maximum amount of arsenic recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

To see how this influences the prevalence of diabetes, researchers from the Johns Hopkins University studied more than seven hundred adults whose urine levels of arsenic were measured during a national nutrition survey in 2003. The researchers found that people with type two diabetes had nearly one-third higher levels of arsenic in their urine. Conversely, people with the highest levels of arsenic in their urine were almost four times more likely to have type two diabetes.

The authors say low levels of arsenic in drinking water may interfere with cells’ ability to absorb glucose. Other studies have suggested that arsenic influences genetic factors that dictate insulin sensitivity, inflammation and cellular damage. Exposure to high levels of arsenic has been linked to cancer, reproductive, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders.

Arsenic contamination is more common in regions known for coal burning, mining and copper smelting, although contaminants from industrial and agricultural areas can also enter the water supply. To find out if your drinking water contains high levels of arsenic, contact your local water utility department… they’re required to report the most recent E-P-A test results.