Exposure to environmental chemicals has been associated with the development of diabetes and obesity in numerous epidemiological and animal studies. Gut microbiota, the microorganisms that colonize the intestine, also appear to play a role in diabetes and obesity. Do these two environmental factors interact? Our speakers discussed evidence that suggests that they may.
Dr. Jacobs has published numerous articles on exposure to persistent organic pollutants in relation to health, including diabetes and obesity. In a recent study, he and colleagues investigated the link between methanogen microbes, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and obesity. These microbes biodegrade petroleum hydrocarbons in polluted environments, and the authors hypothesized that a higher body burden of petroleum based chemicals may promote methanogens in the gut. The results show that the levels of methangens were associated with measurements of obesity, as well as blood POP levels.
In a recent review, Dr. Snedeker and Dr. Hay integrate the evidence linking gut microbiota and environmental chemical exposures to diabetes and obesity, providing a framework for how these factors may interact in these diseases, and identifying future research needs. Gut microbiota may affect the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of environmental chemicals. Variations in gut microbiota are likely to affect an individual's exposure to obesogenic and diabetogenic chemicals.
David Jacobs, PhD, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota.
Suzanne Snedeker, PhD, Department of Food Science, Cornell University.
Anthony Hay, PhD, Department of Microbiology, Institute for Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, Cornell University.
The call was moderated by Steve Heilig, MPH, CHE Director of Public Health & Education, and Director of Public Health & Education, San Francisco Medical Society.