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Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum

The Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum Working Group aims to catalyze more robust consideration of the science showing how environmental chemicals and other environmental/societal factors may contribute to the development and management of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and all types of diabetes.

To stay up to date on the latest science linking chemicals, and social/environmental factors to diabetes, obesity and related conditions please join this listserv. We post information on type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes; overweight and obesity; metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease; diabetes management/complications; and more.

How to Join: If you are interested in participating in this ongoing discussion, please first sign up to be a CHE Partner if you are not already. To become a CHE Partner see the application at: http://www.healthandenvironment.org/application. If you are already a CHE Partner and would like to join this group please send an email request to info@healthandenvironment.org.

Diabetes and Environment Website: Developed by Sarah Howard, this website on the links between diabetes and various environmental factors attracts 55,000 unique visitors a year. Check it out: www.diabetesandenvironment.org.

Coordinator: Sarah Howard, MS, is the National Coordinator for the Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum Working Group. If you have questions regarding this working group please contact info@healthandenvironment.org.

Important Note: Participants are encouraged to post research studies, articles and related information on environmental contributors to obesity, metabolic syndrome and/or any type of diabetes to the listserv. Though there are overlapping aspects of these health endpoints, we also realize they are distinct.

The Working Group has sponsored and organized a number of well-attended teleconference calls with leading scientists (see full list below). For example:

Recordings are available at the call pages.

Background  Information

Diabetes and Obesity: Prevalence

link to United States of Diabetes reportDiabetes and obesity are two of the most common and most costly health problems today. 12% of U.S. adults have diabetes, and if current trends continue, more than 50% will have diabetes or pre-diabetes by 2020. Annual U.S. spending on diabetes is $194 billion (2010) and could reach $500 billion by 2020. Over two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, and an alarming 17% of children are already obese as well (UnitedHealth Group, 2010).

Types of Diabetes

Most people with diabetes have type 2, formerly called “adult onset” diabetes, which is associated with increased insulin resistance and obesity. Now, however, type 2 diabetes is appearing even in children. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, formerly called “juvenile diabetes,” since it often appears during childhood, although it can appear at any age. Incidence of type 1 is increasing around the world, most rapidly in the youngest children, under age 5. Gestational diabetes, a third type of diabetes, appears during pregnancy and usually resolves after childbirth, although it can increase the mother’s risk of type 2 or type 1 later in life. The common factor to any type of diabetes is high blood sugar levels, which are associated with serious complications including neuropathy, nephropathy, and retinopathy.

There is overlap among the various types of diabetes, and scientists are beginning to look at diabetes as a spectrum of disease, with type 1 (autoimmune) on one end, and type 2 (metabolic) on the other. Indeed, researchers have found that 15-35% of type 2 patients diagnosed before age 45 test positive for antibodies to GAD, one of the markers of type 1 diabetes. Many children with diabetes, meanwhile, show signs of autoimmunity as well as insulin resistance. It may be that a large number of people with diabetes have both autoimmune and metabolic processes contributing to their disease.

Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

Obesity sometimes occurs in combination with insulin resistance, elevated fasting blood sugar, abnormal blood lipids, and elevated blood pressure. The clustering of several of these factors is called metabolic syndrome and raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes over and above the sum of risk associated with each individual abnormality. Markers of systemic inflammation are increased in metabolic syndrome and in many people with obesity. Increased levels of inflammatory mediators are likely to play a role in the development of insulin resistance and diabetes. The combination of abnormal systemic inflammation and insulin resistance also increases the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Metabolic syndrome is very common in people with type 2 diabetes, and also common in adults with type 1.

Diabetes and Obesity: The Role of Environmental Exposures

link to Diabetes Care journalUntil very recently, research studies did not explore whether synthetic chemicals (found in everyday products and wherever people live, work or play) might play a role in the development of diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome. Emerging research suggests that they may. A groundbreaking 2006 study found “striking” associations between various persistent organic pollutants and diabetes. At high levels of exposure, the risk of diabetes was an astounding 37.7 times higher than the lowest exposure levels. Also, in people with the lowest exposure levels, obesity did not increase the risk of diabetes (http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/7/1638.long) Additional studies have found associations between various chemical exposures and diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, autoimmunity, and weight gain as well (see the National Toxicology Program’s literature review in the Resources section).


Additional Resources

Please visit the resource page: http://www.healthandenvironment.org/initiatives/diabetes/diabetes_resources

Past Calls

October 15, 2014 --

CHE Partnership Call - Cold Feet: Perinatal DDT Exposure Increases Risk of Insulin Resistance
Background Information / Resources

Call Blog
Listen to the MP3 recording

October 9, 2014 --

CHE Partnership Call - Home Invaders: Are flame retardants fattening us up and harming our bones?
Background Information / Resources

Call Blog
Listen to the MP3 recording

September 17, 2014 --

CHE Partnership Call - Maternal Bisphenol A Programs Offspring Metabolic Syndrome
Background Information / Resources

Call Blog
Listen to the MP3 recording

June 18, 2014 --

CHE Partnership Call - Prenatal Exposure to EDCs and Obesity: Combining Toxicology and Epidemiology with Dr. Juliette Legler
Background Information / Resources

Call Blog
Listen to the MP3 recording

March 11, 2014 --

CHE Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum Working Group call: The Link Between Arsenic Exposure and Diabetes: A Review of the Current Research
Background Information / Resources

Call Blog
Listen to the MP3 recording

March 20, 2013 --

Transgenerational Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Environmental Obesogens in Rodents
Background Information / Resources

Call Blog
Listen to the MP3 recording

January 19, 2012 --

CHE Partnership Call - Gut Microbiota and Environmental Chemicals in Diabetes and Obesity
Background Information / Resources

Call Blog


September 14, 2011 --
Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum Working Group call
Background Information / Resources


November 3, 2009 --
Metabolic Syndrome Discussion Group Call

September 21, 2009 --
CHE Metabolic Syndrome Discussion Group Call
Background Information / Resources

May 7, 2009 --

CHE Partnership Call - Metabolic Syndrome: At the Crossroads of the Western Disease Cluster
Background Information / Resources

Call Blog

Download the MP3 Recording

Is the Environment Making Us Fat and Sick?

A CHE exclusive feature

July 20, 2006 --

CHE Partnership Call: Human Metabolism, Diabetes, and Obesity: The Environmental Connections
Background Information/Resources
Listen to the audio recording of this call (MP3 Format)
Call Blog

September 23, 2004 --

Obesity: The Silent Environmental Epidemic
Call Transcripts

Background Information/Resources

 

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