Is there a link between type 2 diabetes and high levels of mercury?

by Barbara Hewitt on April 12, 2013

Among the new drugs is Forxiga, an oral diabetes drug

Is there a link between type 2 diabetes and high levels of mercury?

High levels of mercury exposure in young adults could increase their risks of developing type 2 diabetes later in life by 65%, according to a new study which is the first to establish a link between mercury and diabetes.

The study, led by Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington epidemiologist Ka He, paints a complicated nutritional picture because the main source of mercury in humans comes from fish and shellfish, nearly all of which contain traces of mercury. Fish and shellfish also contain lean protein and other nutrients, such as magnesium and omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, that make them important to a healthy diet.

The researchers found that people with the highest levels of mercury also appeared to have healthier lifestyles with lower body mass indexes, smaller waist circumferences and take more exercise than other study participants. They also ate more fish, which is a possible marker of healthy diet or higher social economic status – risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being overweight.

The study, which involved 3,875 men and women, established the link between mercury levels and type 2 diabetes risk after taking into account lifestyle and other dietary factors such as magnesium and omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which could counter the effects of the mercury. He said that these findings point to the importance of selecting fish known to have low levels of mercury, such as shrimp, salmon and catfish, and avoiding fish with higher levels, such as swordfish and shark.

Quote from DiabetesForum.com : “I then thought TUNA (which I love)!! I bought many cans, and have been eating a serving a day for over 2 months. Then Consumer reports came out yesterday with an article on tuna, stating there was so much dangerous mercury in it, that no more than a single serving a week was safe!”

‘It is likely that the overall health impact of fish consumption may reflect the interactions of nutrients and contaminants in fish. Thus, studying any of these nutrients and contaminants such as mercury should consider confounding from other components in fish,’ he explained. ‘In the current study, the association between mercury exposure and diabetes incidence was substantially strengthened after controlling for intake of LCn-3PUFAs (omega-3) and magnesium,’ he added.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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